Mumbai: Even days after the suicide of coffee baron VG Siddhartha, the controversies surrounding him refuse to die down. Caught in the whirlpool was B R Balakrishnan, the official who ordered seizure of the shares of Siddhartha, the then director-general of Income Tax (Investigation Wing) and principal chief commissioner of I-T for Karnataka and Goa. Balakrishnan has since retired.
The man under the spotlight of the so-called “tax terrorism” — Bala — as he is popularly known, was in the midst of farewell calls and goodbyes when an alleged letter written by Café Coffee Day chain founder Siddhartha went viral.
The letter, addressed to the board members and staff, had alleged harassment by the “previous DG of I-T’’, without naming him. Bala, on his part, refused to react. Appearing unfazed, he told reporters, “I only believe in doing my job well.’’
The IT department quickly pointed out that Siddhartha had confessed to concealing his income and that the signature on the alleged suicide note did not tally with his signatures on the forms that he had filled for returns.
Bala was not new to controversies. He was caught in a political controversy over a series of raids carried out by his team. The the chief minister H D Kumaraswamy had complained to the Election Commission against him. Kumaraswamy and other ministers had alleged “selective raids” on supporters of JD(S) and Congress ahead of elections.
Prior to joining as DG (Investigation), Bala had worked in the Investigation Wing of the IT department in Chennai and Mumbai. In 2017, a probe led by him led to the unearthing of gutkha scam where bribes were paid to Tamil Nadu ministers.
He was also instrumental in unearthing the hidden assets of Abdul Karim Telgi, the convicted Indian counterfeiter, who earned crores by printing counterfeit stamp paper.
Bala had systematically drawn up a list of properties to be attached by the IT, but he could not make much headway because the investigations were conducted by multiple agencies and they had to conclude their reports before submitting them to the courts.
Bala had also taken the initiative to raid Bitcoin operators all over India and unearthed their dealings. His Mumbai colleagues said he was an efficient and upright officer, who did not know-tow to politicians.
Everyday, he would take the rounds of his departments at 9.30 am to ensure that all the staff were punctual and began working. Besides being a technology freak, he was a good investigator who went by the law.
He himself put in long hours and ensured that investigations were completed, and not left incomplete. He was a down to earth person who took his job seriously and would brook no interference from any quarters.
His colleagues say that it is hard to believe that Bala would have resorted to harassment. In fact, he is reported to have said to the captains of industry that he did not prosecute people with any sadistic pleasure.
He only used harsh measures if there were cases of deliberate attempts to evade tax, or those having illicit income coming from drugs and corruption. He did not it to be fair to not prosecute them.
By BIJU CHERIAN