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Suresh Gopi to face trial in tax evasion case

Actor and Member of Parliament, Suresh Gopi, on Tuesday faced the prospect of standing trial in a court of law for having “defrauded” the State government of automobile tax on two of his super luxury cars.

Additional Director General of Police, Crime Branch (CB), Tomin. J. Thachankery told The Hindu that the evidence against Mr Gopi in the two-year-old case warranted the filing of a chargesheet soon. The CB case against Mr. Gopi is that he had used phoney documents to fraudulently register his luxury cars in Puducherry to dodge the steep lax on opulent vehicles in Kerala. The actor had allegedly used fake notarised documents to show permanent residency in the Union Territory, a prerequisite for registering automobiles in Puducherry.

The decision to chargesheet the celebrity politician and Bharathiya Janata Party (BJP) leader is the latest development in the agency’s sweeping inquiry into the inter-State automobile tax evasion fraud that had cost the Kerala exchequer dear.

The CB said it would slap Mr. Gopi with charges of cheating, forgery and use of forged documents as genuine ones under Sections 420, 468 and 471 of the Indian Penal Code. The offences are non-bailable and carry a punishment of up to seven years of rigorous imprisonment and fine.

Mr. Thachankery said the agency had investigated actor Amala Paul and Fahad Fazil on similar charges. However, the agency concluded that they had scarce evidence to prosecute them criminally.

The government, which has flagged the tax evasion as a significant revenue loss, has estimated that more than 5,000 vehicles purchased from automobile showrooms in Kerala were fraudulently registered in Puducherry. (Kerala levied 20% tax on vehicles costing ₹20 lakh and upwards. Puducherry imposed a far lesser duty. The suspects, ultra-wealthy celebrities and businesspeople, had sought to exploit the tax differential.)

Automobile showrooms aspiring to drive up sales, profiteering intermediaries and acquiescing regional transport officials, had facilitated the fraud.

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