INDIA. Mumbai: Bollywood actor Sonu Sood has been accused of evading Income Tax worth over Rs 20 crore and also violating provisions of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) 2010 and committing other financial irregularities.
The IT department which conducted a search and seizure operation at various premises of Sood in Mumbai and other places across the country, in a statement on Saturday, accused him of financial irregularities worth over Rs 250 crore by way of unutilized charitable funds, showing bogus contracts, diversion of funds to evade taxes and circular transactions with a Lucknow (Uttar Pradesh) based group of industries engaged in infrastructure development.
Without naming the actor, the IT department said that Sood so far evaded the income tax worth Rs 20 crore and the search operations and investigation is in progress.
Total 28 premises spread over Mumbai, Lucknow, Kanpur (Uttar Pradesh), Jaipur (Rajasthan), Delhi, and Gurgaon (Haryana) were covered in the search operations. During the course of search at the premises of Sood and his associates, incriminating evidence pertaining to tax evasion was found, Surabhi Ahluwalia, Commissioner of Income Tax (Media & Technical Policy) said.
The main modus operandi followed by Sood was to route his unaccounted income in the form of bogus unsecured loans from bogus entities. Investigations so far revealed the use of 20 such entries, the providers of which, admitted on oath to have given bogus accommodation entries. They also admitted having issued cheques in lieu of cash.
There had been instances where the money received for professional work was camouflaged as loan in the books of accounts to avoid the tax. It was also revealed that these bogus loans were used to make investments and acquire properties, the IT statement said.
The search operations were carried out at various premises of an Infrastructure group in Lucknow, in which Sood has entered into a joint venture real estate project and has invested substantial funds. During the search the IT sleuths unearthed incriminating evidence pertaining to tax evasion and irregularities in the books of account.
The search revealed that the above-mentioned Group was involved in bogus billing of subcontracting expenses to siphon off the funds. Such bogus contracts worth Rs. 65 crore were brought to the fore. The unaccounted cash expenses and unaccounted sale of scrap were also noticed during the search operations.
Further, it was also revealed that the Lucknow-based infrastructure group/company had entered into a dubious circular transaction to the tune of Rs. 175 crore with an infrastructure company based in Jaipur (Rajasthan). Cash of Rs 1.8 crore was seized during the course of the search and 11 bank lockers belonging to Sood were sealed.
Irregularities In Charitable Work
An NGO, ‘Sood Charity Foundation’, incorporated by him on July 21, 2020, collected donations to the tune of Rs 18.94 crore from April 01 onwards. Of these, the foundation spent around Rs. 1.9 crore towards relief work (for migrants) and the balance of Rs. 17 crore was still lying unutilized in the bank account of the foundation to date. It was also noticed that the funds to the tune of Rs. 2.1 crore was also raised by the foundation from overseas donors on a crowdfunding platform in violation of FCRA regulations.
Sood through another initiative “Pravasirojgar”, had entered into a joint venture with an Indian company backed by a Singapore-backed group with an initial investment of Rs 250 crore, to provide employment opportunities to Indian youth.
The ruling Shiv Sena had labelled him as ‘Mahatma Sonu Sood’ claiming that although doing charitable work, he was helping the opposition BJP to discredit the Maha Vikas Aghadi government’s commendable work during the pandemic in Maharashtra.
This official revelation is a huge setback for Sood, who scaled pinnacles of popularity during the Covid-19 pandemic by organizing free flights, trains, and luxury buses to enable migrants stranded in Maharashtra and other parts of India to reach their homes.
Sood played the role of an antagonist in the global blockbuster “Kung Fu Yoga” (2017), China’s second-highest box-office, starring superstar Jackie Chan, Disha Patani, and Amyra Dastur. The actor was the star and co-host of a major international three-part tele-series ‘BharatKeMahaveer’, arising out of a partnership of the United Nations in India, NITI Aayog, and the Discovery Channel group.