Kerala actor to face probe in car tax ‘fraud’

Court asks Suresh Gopi to present himself before the investigation team probing the matter

Thiruvananthapuram


Malayalam filmdom’s one-time action hero and presently a Bharatiya Janata Party MP, Suresh Gopi will have to present himself before an investigation team that is looking into the case of his alleged use of fake documentation while registering his vehicle in Puducherry.

Puducherry is a federally administered territory where vehicle tax rates were considerably lower than in other states until recently, before the federal government rolled out the national Goods and Services Tax.

The Kerala High Court on Friday asked the actor to present himself before the investigation team probing the matter. The court’s directive came while considering an anticipatory bail plea by the actor.

The actor is accused of showing fake documents to claim residence in Puducherry, thereby benefitting from the lower vehicle tax prevailing there.

A magistrate court will consider the actor’s plea after he presents himself before the investigation team.

The development is considered an image setback for the BJP in Kerala, which is accusing the ruling Left Democratic Front and the opposition United Democratic Front of corruption.

Earlier, the Motor Vehicles Department had asked the actor to produce the documents that he had given to secure registration of his vehicle in Puducherry. After the department found discrepancies in the documents, the crime branch had registered a case against him.

While Indian citizens are permitted to stay in any state and register the vehicles in their state of domicile, questions have been raised about wealthy individuals registering their luxury vehicles in places where the tax is low, and then using the vehicle in another state.

One estimate says there are nearly 2,000 vehicles that are registered in Puducherry that are being used by their owners in Kerala. Besides Suresh Gopi, the Motor Vehicles Department has sent notices to about 70 such people who are suspected to have evaded tax in Kerala by registering their vehicles in Puducherry.

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