The Times of India – Taxmen to keep close watch on flow of money into poll-bound Punjab

Chandigarh, 18 January 2017. As campaigning for Punjab elections reaches crescendo, the income tax (IT) department has decided to keep a close watch on activities related to electioneering by intensifying monitoring at airports and airstrips, and on social media accounts of political heavyweights.

The director general of the department’s investigations wing, Madhu Mahajan, said they would continue to carry out routine checks like keeping an eye on affidavits filed by candidates. So far, the department has seized Rs 4.5 crore in unaccounted cash after the model code of conduct came into force.

“The department is monitoring and analysing social media, like Facebook accounts of important people (in Punjab elections),” Parneet Sachdev, the principal director of the department’s investigation wing, told reporters on Tuesday.

Several candidates in the state are using social media to post pictures and videos of their campaigns and rallies ahead of the February 4 elections.

The department has also deployed informers on the field to get “actionable intelligence” to check the misuse of black money. “We are keeping important persons under surveillance.

We have our own ways of looking at persons to check black money. We have got a set of informers. Even people give us good information through our helpline,” said Sachdev.

As part of the department’s mandate to check misuse of money during polls, it has seized unaccounted cash to the tune of Rs 10 crore in Punjab after demonetisation.

“We intercepted Rs 10 crore of cash, which was being transported and for which there was no explanation. Of the Rs 10 crore, Rs 4.5 crore of cash was seized after the notification of the model code of conduct,” Mahajan said.

When asked whether the unexplained cash belonged to any political party or candidate, she said an inquiry was on. “As you know they (from whom the money seized) are cash mules and refuse to say anything. But our investigations are on,” she said.

Stating that the department was working closely with law-enforcement agencies including police to check black money flow, Mahajan said much before the notification of the code of conduct, the department had put in place measures to check movement of unaccounted cash.

“The work of checking black money during polls started almost one and half months before the notification of code of conduct,” she said, adding the department has also set up air intelligence units at Ludhiana, Mohali and Amritsar airports.

“These units coordinate with CISF and gather intelligence and intercept unaccounted cash and other valuables being carried by air route. For smaller airports like Bathinda and Patiala, coordination has been done with other agencies including air-traffic controller to check passengers for black money.

The in charges of private airstrips in the north western region have also been sensitized in this regard,” she said.

Two helplines have also been set up where people have been providing information on black money, Mahajan said, adding that 700 complaints regarding election expenditure and tax evasion were received on these helplines.

The Election Commission has set a limit of Rs 28 lakh expenditure for a candidate contesting the 2017 assembly elections from the bigger states, including Punjab.


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