Several owners of vehicles who have received a notice from the transport department have gone to the police, claiming that they have been deceived by transport intermediaries/agents.
“We have issued an advisory to around 500 vehicles, including 200 premium car owners, in Bangalore Central OTR (HSR Layout) alone to pay the taxes. While the majority of vehicle owners paid cash to intermediaries, those who paid through banks are now approaching the police to file a case against the culprits. The police independently investigate each complaint since there is no ID investigation still covering all RTOs,” a senior Department of Transport official said.
He said a vehicle owner filed a complaint with Malleswaram Police against a dealer/intermediary for alleged fraud. “The officer admitted to police that he also committed the fraud for 52 other vehicles. Two vehicle owners who received notices also filed complaints with Koramangala Police,” the official added.
While some owners of high-end vehicles have protested their innocence and claimed that they trusted Department of Transport officials, that they had received their “tax paid” receipts and therefore there was no need to pay the tax again, Transport Department officials rejected this. “The extent of the scam will be revealed once we conduct a third-party investigation across all RTOs in the state,” the official said.
May have to probe RTO officials: cop
Police officials said three people have been arrested in relation to the complaints so far and confirmed it was a major scam. Malleswaram Police investigators said they arrested car dealer Ajay and the former RTO member. Ravishankar. A senior police official said it was a big scam and they hadn’t gotten to the heart of the racket yet.
“We suspect the hands of a few RTO officials. Also, it’s not something that’s happened for the first time. The racquet is old with established hands working behind it. We’re in the process of collecting documents to RTO and the Department of Transportation to continue our investigation,” he said, adding, “The scam came to light when a car owner discovered that his dealership cheated on him without paying tax to life for the vehicle. What we suspect is that miscreants all these years had managed to falsify the records of the vehicle with the transportation department.”
After Malleswaram Police finished questioning Ajay and Ravishankar, the two were taken back into custody at Central Jail. Koramangala Police arrested Ravishankar for questioning. Police said another broker, Thimmaiah, was arrested based on Ravishankar’s statement.
“Based on Ravishankar’s statement, we will decide how to proceed in the future. We may have to interview a few RTO officials soon,” a senior police officer said.
At Bengaluru Central RTO (HSR Layout), transport officials checked the records of 7,387 premium vehicles registered between April 1, 2015 and November 30, 2021 and found escape in 500 cases. The scam consists of not paying road tax, issuing false challans or undervaluing the vehicle with official connivance.
In March, Transport Minister B Sriramulu told the assembly that a CID investigation would be launched into the scam, but nothing has happened so far. While Bengaluru alone has over 1 crore of vehicles, the transport department has no record of luxury vehicles. Some officials allegedly colluded with car dealerships and generated fake challans using flaws in the Vahan-3 portal.
Intermediaries, in collusion with transport department officials and dealers, assure future owners of luxury vehicles that they can pay less than the “official tax”. Although there is a circular from the Department of Transport stating that all transactions above Rs 3,000 must be done via DD/online, many of these luxury car owners pay the full amount of the tax in ‘cash’ to these intermediaries/transport personnel, who would have pocketed the money without depositing them in the accounts of the ministry.