KATHMANDU/ CHITWAN, June 6: Local businessmen here on Wednesday set ablaze a government vehicle, vandalized a police beat at Shahidchowk and took revenue officials under their control when a revenue squad dispatched from the capital conducted a raid at a cloth shop on suspicion of evading taxes.
A “flying squad” led by director of the Department of Revenue Investigation (DRI) Bharat Raj Subedi had fanned out to Narayanghat to conduct the raid following a tip off that three firms -- Laxmi Narayan Bastralaya, Bhagwat Bastralaya and Naulo Pasal - were involved in revenue evasion.
Local businessmen staged protest as the squad raided the shops before sealing Laxmi Narayan Bastralaya and Bhagawat Bastralaya at Shahid Chowk and the situation took ugly turn beyond the control of the police.
“They (local businessmen) took us under control when we were about to complete taking record of cloth stocks, collect necessary documents and seal the main entrance of Laxmi Narayan Bastralaya,” Subedi told media persons after returning to the capital.
Subedi said Laxmi Narayan Bastralaya whose estimated monthly turnover is around Rs 50 million was paying monthly tax of just around Rs 50,000. “Its tax payment was less than one percent of its income,” said Subedi.
The squad had also attempted to seal Bhagawat Bastralaya -- another cloth store that was operating without VAT registration, but failed after traders reacted vehemently. The squad, however, completed the raid at Naulo Pasal and took its documents and cloth stock under control.
The joint squad of 24 persons -- 15 Armed Police Force (APF) personnel and nine DRI officials -- had left for Narayanghat from Kathmandu in wee hours on Wednesday to raid the three shops.
The DRI had intensified investigation following the recent instruction from Finance Minister Barshaman Pun to keep close eye to revenue evaders.
The irked businessmen alleged that the revenue team demanded kickbacks. The protesters who went berserk also set the police beat at Sahidchowk on fire after chasing away police personnel. Interestingly, the local administration had set up the police beat on request from the businessmen themselves.
The traders pelted stones and brickbats at police who later fired tear gas shells to take the situation under control. During the scuffle, five persons including three police personnel were injured.
Earlier, the protestors had set ablaze a jeep (Ba 1 Jha 9135) belonging to DRI before vandalizing a fire brigade that had rushed to the scene from Bharatpur Municipality to douse the fire.
The scuffle turned violent following an an altercation between the IRD team and the owner of Laxmi Narayan Vastralaya. The businessmen had taken to the streets chanting slogans against the DRI officials and police personnel.
Chief District Officer of Chitwan Hem Nath Dawadi held an emergency meeting of District Security Council and claimed the situation would not have turned nasty had the DRI team coordinated with local administration before conducting the raid.
Laxmi Narayan Shrestha, proprietor of Laxmi Narayan Bastralaya, claimed that his firm has never evaded taxes. “I cooperated with the revenue officials,” said Shrestha.
Director General of DRI Janma Jaya Regmi told media persons that revenue officials have full authority to conduct a raid at any firm without informing the proprietors.
He said DRI would hold a meeting with the Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI) on Thursday seeking the latter´s cooperation in bringing tax evaders to book.
Agitating businessmen setting the DRI vehicle on fire(Photo: Chandani Hamal)
Injured police personnel wiping his wound after the clash(Photo: Chandani Hamal)
Irate locals vandalizing the fire engine(Photo: Chandani Hamal)
(Photo: Chandani Hamal)
Laxmi Narayan Vastralaya, the shop where the inspection took place. (Photo: Chandani Hamal)
The police beat set on fire. (Photo: Chandani Hamal)