Citizens' Issues
Indian tax authorities receive international assistance in tracking the trade in stolen luxury cars

Lately, insurers and other agencies have been fitting the cars with transponders, as well as bugging devices, which work globally on mobile phone or satellite phone technology, which gives them a fairly good idea of where the cars are going. It seems that some of this information is being made available to the authorities here

The luxury car market in India is abuzz again, as it comes under the microscope—yet again—of the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), certainly the most-feared and stringent organisation in the business of catching smugglers and tax-evaders. Media reports are sketchy on the subject, after all the offending car and bike manufacturers are among the biggest advertisers, so due caution will be exercised by commercial departments over the editorial reportage.

This comes on top of the after-effects of the anti-corruption movement that is increasingly taking on the colour of a campaign to identify and prevent theft of national assets, and the luxury car business is square in the sights of both the widening view of the public as well as investigating arms of the government. (Read, “High-end cars, bikes seized: DRI”; “Bentleys, Rolls, stolen in Europe, sold to desi rich”.)

  The fact remains that there is not a single name from the range of luxury car manufacturers—Ferrari, BMW, Mercedes, Porsche, Lamborghini, Aston Martin, Masserati, Buggatti, Humvee, Audi, among others—which are not currently in the picture here. Information on numbers also is still opaque, with confirmed figures mentioning around 40 cars, but with the speculation going up to over 300-400 cars, as many of these cars are possessed by the high and mighty.

If galley rumour and grapevine is to be believed, then many high-end cars which were seen on the streets of our larger cities have quietly been, over the last few days, re-located to farmhouses and secret locations, till things cool down. This includes cars used as media loaner and demo models, which is why every so often you see media-test cars onscreen and in magazines with their registration numbers missing or covered up.

Most of these cars are owned, or operated, or intended for no less than the high and mighty of our country, including many of our law-makers as well as elected representatives, who get away with more than a few crimes, because their vehicles sport fancy red beacons and sirens, and race through check-posts and toll-gates without having to provide identity or documentation. The head of Delhi's Traffic Police, in a message to this writer, bemoaned the fact that he had orders "from above" not to check cars belonging to people in governance, public servants, whether they were officials or elected, and that's the simple truth which we all know too.
That some of the high and mighty are currently guests of the state in assorted jails, especially Tihar jail, is another related issue. Suresh Kalmadi made Audi famous by driving up to the offices of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in a brand new Audi A8(L) version, equipped with member of Parliament sticker on the front windscreen and red beacon discreetly tucked away inside. That's OK, he could have come in a private jet, and that's about par for the course too. But, the fact remains, this business of too many grey luxury cars on our streets has been coming for a while. MoneyLife has been reporting regularly on this racket for the last few years. (Read, “Numbers game”) 

As a matter of fact, this writer was approached by somebody from the UK a few months ago, wanting to know more about the luxury car business in India. The conversation soon turned to second-hand luxury cars, and once we exchanged more information about each other, to the more direct topic of where the stolen luxury cars were going and who was maintaining them, since that is how these cars are usually tracked. It turned out that we had common friends, including somebody who had been in my school and was now a senior policeman in London, and that's one reason why they had touched base with me. The other reason was that I had been writing about the subject.
The way it goes in the UK is that somebody buys a luxury car in England or South Africa and then declares it stolen, or simply steals a luxury car, and ships it to India via certain entry points. The countries mentioned are Turkey, Cyprus, Albania and of course, Nepal and the UAE. While this is in the realm of speculation, there is no smoke without a fire. The car then enters India through a variety of routes, including—it is reported—diplomatic channels, and then gets absorbed into the local Indian market. Even this is not new, it has been going on for decades.

But what is new is that since late, insurers and other agencies in the UK have, in some cases, been fitting the cars with transponders, as well as bugging devices, which work globally on mobile phone or satellite phone technology, and this gives them a fairly good idea of where the cars are going. This has often been done without the knowledge of the manufacturers, who in some cases are suspected to be accomplices in such crimes, as it helps them get the cars across to a market and customer.
It is now being assumed that this information on cars that have been stolen abroad and are being tracked down with the help of these devices is open domain and details may have been provided to the authorities here. That our authorities may act in some cases and may choose not to act or continue listening in some other cases, is best illustrated with this anecdote—a friend who is in the business of confidential information adding to his business prospects, used to regularly get his office and home checked for bugs. Once in a way he would get his cars checked too. Very recently, he upgraded the team used for this, and they found that not only were a few of his cars transmitting everything spoken inside—they were also reporting back the location and movement. And that this was suspected to be part of the original equipment in the car, not some after-market fitment, which says something again about customer service.

In the motoring media, we always knew that cars loaned to media persons for road tests often had bugging devices fitted inside, or were in some way or the other monitored. Very often, these cars did not have proper documentation too, and after some time for both these reasons I stopped really going out for road tests on such cars. But just about a month ago, one of these European luxury car manufacturers offered me a test car, a new version of their existing luxury car. When it reached my home, I took a close look at the documents (it sported an out-of-state number) and found that the registration was for one number, the insurance was another, and neither of them matched the engine and chassis numbers in actual fact.
I took my own modest little Maruti Swift for the drive. And as on date, I know for a fact that more than a few of my friends who drive expensive luxury cars, are quietly getting the documents re-verified and also getting them scanned for bugging and tracking devices. This is in addition, of course, to the simple fact that the number of expensive luxury cars parked in the areas where I go for a walk every morning seem to have come down.



A retired IRS officer

6 years ago

Sadly, this also happens to be another piece yet from a naive and ill-informed person who more relies on theory that the ground realities. It must first be acknowledged that, from the 1960s, the Income-tax department has been in the receipt of all relevant info. about tax evasion. In the present times, with the technological advancements, the flow has become heavier and faster-that is the only doifference. But the basic mindset and the level of integrity having totally become attuned to and corrupted by the prevailing bureaucratic values of greed and money-making, all the information/intelligence received is invariably used not only by the unscrupulously dishonest and lowlife officers of the IT department from the top to bottom, but more by the real bureaucrats (read:IAS) for their personal pecuniary and career moves. This is what is conspicuously missing in any report by all and sundry, run-off-the-mill reporters/economic columnists on the state of the IRS vis-a-vis the IAS/real bureaucratic muscle power in India and their political bosses. And here lies the main reason of the rot. The IT deptt. or the CBDT or the IRS happens to be a toothless paper tiger solely under the IAS who in turn are ever bending backward to please the political masters. It is they who begin the ball of corruption rolling downward and the lower menials in the deptt./IRS are only too eager to jump on the slightest opportunity to please the civil servant bosses in the IAS and CSS and to gather the crumbs of leftovers. Corruption flows downwards and not vice versa. As a result, the information received by the IT deptt can never be properly (read purposefully) used to unearth black money as any proposed action by the Inv. wing in the country is bound to be foiled by the CBDT and the IAS in their interest. This also is the result of a continuing disregard for the brilliant investigative and legal work still being done by the neglected officers of the department despite the obstacles created daily by the top bosses in the Revenue Department/CBDT, apart from the Ministers who interfere even in the routine transfers of peons and clerks!



In Reply to A retired IRS officer 6 years ago

Thank you for writing in sir. Your first hand observations on the IRS are welcome and quite in line with what we hear too. However, the difference is that many of us like to think that there is hope and things will improve.

Why don't you write for us, please, or come out and try to be an instrument of change? Many of us will only benefit from your observations, expertise and factual positions.

Till then, please wish us well.

ONCE AGAIN, thank you for writing in, and so frankly at that.

Veeresh malik

A retired IRS

In Reply to Malq 6 years ago

The fact that I wish you well is manifest in my accessing the site and commenting at length on the otherwise informative article.

Orissa to take appropriate action on environment minister’s order on Posco

Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti, which had been opposing the project since the South Korean steel major inked MoU with the state government in 2005, however, said it would democratically oppose the steel plant as earlier and that locals are ‘unhappy’ over final approval of forest diversion for the project

Bhubaneswar: Orissa government today said it would take ‘appropriate action’ on the Posco project after receiving the order of Union ministry of environment and forest (MoEF) which accorded final approval for forest land diversion for the proposed mage steel unit, reports PTI.

“We are yet to receive the order. We have just learnt from the media that such an order has been passed. When we receive the order, appropriate action will be taken,” chief minister Naveen Patnaik told reporters here.

Orissa agriculture minister Damodar Rout, MLA from the proposed plant site area for about 35 years, welcomed the MoEF order saying it would help in setting up the Rs52,000 crore project near Paradip in Jagatsinghpur district.

“Union environment minister Jairam Ramesh’s two-day visit to Orissa on 29th and 30th April had been beneficial for the state and the Posco project. During his visit, Mr Ramesh could realise that some people are deliberately opposing the project without any reason,” he said.

Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS), which had been opposing the project since the South Korean steel major inked MoU with the state government in 2005, however, said it would democratically oppose the steel plant as earlier and that locals are ‘unhappy’ over final approval of forest diversion for the project.

“PPSS also will not hesitate to take the matter to the court of law as we feel that people living in proposed plant site villages are deprived of their rights under FRA, 2006,” PPSS president Abhay Sahu told PTI.

The CPI-backed outfit said it would soon start a ‘satyagrah’ at Balitutha, the entry point to proposed plant site area, opposing the project.

The Centre accorded the final approval of forest diversion over 1253 hectare (about 2900 acre) of land from among the 4,004 acre of total land demarcated to house the mega steel plant near Paradip in Jagatsinghpur district.

Mr Ramesh had on 14th April put on hold the forest land diversion proposed of the state government after he received claims by PPSS.

Clearing the decks for the biggest foreign direct investment (FDI) in the country, Mr Ramesh noted that the environment and forest clearance for the $12-billion Posco project had generated huge interest both in India and abroad.

The minister said the project itself has “considerable economic, technological and strategic significance” for both the state and the country.

Maintaining that the laws on environment and forests must be implemented seriously, he said, “In this case, the 60 conditions imposed as part of my decision of 31 January 2011, provide a package of measures to ensure that the project will not be detrimental from an ecological and local livelihoods points of view.”

“I would expect both the state and Posco to be extra-sensitive on this score,” Mr Ramesh said.

The minister, who visited Orissa last week and held discussions with chief minister Naveen Patnaik on this issue, said he opted to repose trust in what the state government has so categorically asserted.

“Faith and trust in what the state government says is an essential pillar of cooperative federalism,” Mr Ramesh said recalling the state government’s argument that the “two supposed palli sabha resolutions” he received were not valid documents in terms of mandatory provisions of law under the Orissa Grama Panchayat Act, 1964 and Forest Rights Act, 2006.

The minister said he had received two ‘palli sabha’ (village council) resolutions of Dhinkia dated 21 February 2011 and of Gobindpur dated 23rd February from Posco Pratirodha Sangram Samiti, the opponents of the project, and he had referred the matter back to the state government.

In its reply on 29th April, the state government informed the minister that the two “resolutions” were “fake ones” and stringent action for violation of provisions of Orissa Grama Panchayat Act, 1964, would be taken against Sisir Mohaptra, sarpanch (headman) Dhinkia.

The state government alleged that the sarpanch had “overstepped the jurisdiction vested in him and misutilised his official position” to serve the interest of Posco Pratirodha Sangram Samiti of which he is the secretary.

The minister said he expects that the Orissa government would “immediately pursue action” against the sarpanch for what it has categorically said are “fraudulent” acts and “if no action is taken forthwith, I believe that the state government’s arguments will be called into serious question.”


Six core sectors grow by 7.4% in March

For the 2010-11 fiscal, the key infrastructure sectors-with a weight of 26.7% in the overall Index of Industrial Production (IIP)-expanded by 5.9%, as against 5.5% in the previous year

New Delhi: Led by crude oil and finished steel, the output of the six core infrastructure industries grew by 7.4% in March 2011, an improvement from the 6.8% expansion clocked a year ago, reports PTI.

For the 2010-11 fiscal, the key infrastructure sectors-with a weight of 26.7% in the overall Index of Industrial Production (IIP)-expanded by 5.9%, as against 5.5% in the previous year.

According to provisional data released today, crude oil production topped the table with growth of 12.1% in March, compared to 3.5% expansion in the corresponding year-ago period.

Petroleum refinery products registered a growth of 8.5% in March, a complete turnaround in comparison to the same month last year, when output had contracted by 1.1%.

Growth in electricity and cement production slowed down marginally in the reporting period to 7.6% and 6.5% respectively from 7.9% and 7.8% in the previous year.

Finished steel production also showed an improvement from 7.7% to 9.9% in March.

However, in stark contrast, coal output contracted by 1.2% in March 2011, compared to 8% expansion in the corresponding year-ago period.


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