Friday, July 22, 2011

Car scam: DRI wants to quiz diplomats

Aston Martin, Bentley Found Abandoned On Roads

New Delhi: The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) has written to the ministry of external affairs (MEA) seeking to examine diplomats of the North Korean and Vietnamese embassies. Six more embassies are under the scanner with DRI having found details of half-a-dozen cars imported by diplomats from as many embassies being sold to Indian celebrities.
All these cars were allegedly imported through the network of Sumit Walia, who was earlier arrested by the agency. Though Walia is out on bail, his associate Rajeev Sood is still in custody. A senior DRI official said the foreign ministry is yet to respond to the request which may hamper investigation as it would be difficult for the government to interrogate them in case they leave the country. An Aston Martin, worth Rs 2 crore, was imported by an embassy official for an Indian client. When DRI raided the kingpin of the scam and started impounding cars, the Aston Martin was abandoned on the roadside from where officials seized it. A Bentley, imported by another diplomat, was similarly recovered from the roadside. Investigators have questioned some of the people from whose cars have been seized. Walia has been questioned a couple of times even after his release from custody.
“Many of these cars were already registered in the UK and fake invoices were generated while importing them,” a senior DRI official said. DRI has impounded more than 45 SUVs — including Ferrari, Lamborghini, Rolls Royce, Hummer, Aston Martin, Porsche and Bentley — registered with politicians, cricketers, industrialists and film stars. The seized luxury cars were imported mainly from UK and some from Dubai.
In case the cars were declared as old, it would have invited a duty of 160%. The customs duty on a new car is 109%. DRI is in the process of impounding three more cars which are with the daughter of a senior UPA minister from Maharashtra. The three cars — an Audi, a Porsche and a BMW — were allegedly bought using the services of Walia.
It’s a duty evasion case and all those who have been found involved in the current scam can get away by merely paying the duties and a penalty. However, in case the agency finds evidence of any of these cars having been stolen from aforeign country, a case may be pursued.

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