INDIA. Mumbai: The Income Tax (IT) Department carried out a search on the residence and business premises of certain businessmen and politicians in different parts of Maharashtra and detected the dubious transactions worth Rs.1050 crore.
“The IT department carried out search operations, after developing the intelligence over 6 months. In all, 25 residential and 15 office premises were covered under the search, while 4 offices were covered under the survey. Some suites in Oberoi Hotel is in South Mumbai, permanently rented by two of the middlemen and used for meeting their clients, were also subjected to search”.
“The syndicate, comprising businessmen/middlemen/associates and persons holding public offices, used code names in their records and one case had back-dated records by 10 years”, Surabhi Ahluwalia, Commissioner of Income Tax (Media & Technical Policy) said in a statement.
These middlemen provided end-to-end services to corporates and entrepreneurs from land allotment to obtaining all governmental clearances. Despite using encrypted modes of communication and sanitizing devices, the IT teams were able to recover critical digital evidence and locate a secret hideout from where various incriminating pieces of evidence were recovered.
The liaisoners also used ‘angadiyas’ for the transfer of cash and Rs.150 lakh was seized from one of the angadiyas. The documents recovered include a summary of overall cash generated and disbursed giving the particulars of the amounts received and receivable, each being more than Rs. 200 crore.
Key areas of generation of money included the cash paid by bureaucrats for getting key postings under a certain Ministry, cash paid by the contractors for getting payments released, etc. The major amount of cash collected was distributed to various persons, including someone mentioned under a code name.
Furthermore, one of the businessmen had also amassed huge unaccounted income by purchasing lands from farmers and transferring the same to Government undertakings/big corporates. Many senior bureaucrats/their relatives and other prominent people were found to have invested money in these schemes.
During the search, evidence unearthed at the office premises included date-wise transactions for a certain period of cash deposits of around Rs. 27 crore and cash payments of around Rs. 40 crore. The cash payments to the tune of Rs. 23 crore were made to various persons, whose names were prefixed with various code words. The said middle man received payments from various businessmen and industrialists for getting lands under the schemes of Government undertakings, the extension of tenders/mining contracts, etc.
Further, in a WhatsApp chat, particulars of cash transactions were found showing receipts of cash of around Rs. 16 crore and outflow of around Rs. 12 crore. Some of the persons searched have their real estate and construction businesses, in respect of which evidence of cash receipts/payments were also found.
Voluminous digital data recovered and seized from mobile phones, pen drives, hard drives, iCloud, e-mails, etc. is being examined. So far, cash of over Rs. 4.6 crore and jewelry valued at Rs. 3.42 crore has been seized. 4 lockers found during the search operation were put under restraint orders, Ahluwalia stated.
Last week, the IT had carried out searches in Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Uttar Pradesh during which 37 premises spread across multiple cities including Mumbai, Pune, Noida, and Bangalore were searched. These groups were in varied businesses such as cable manufacturing, real estate, textile, printing machinery, hotels, logistics, etc. During the search operation, several incriminating documents, loose sheets, diaries, emails, and other digital pieces of evidence, etc. were unearthed indicating ownership of a large number of foreign bank accounts and immovable properties, unreported to the IT Department.
These groups and individuals utilized the services of a Dubai-based financial service provider to create a dubious and complex web of foreign companies and trusts based in tax havens such as Mauritius, UAE, BVI, Gibraltar, etc. to hold their unaccounted assets. The credits in the bank accounts of these groups and individuals maintained by the Dubai-based financial service provider exceeded 100 Million US Dollars ( about Rs. 750 crore).
The credits accumulated over a decade were found to be parked in bank accounts in Switzerland, UAE, Malaysia, and several other countries. During the search operation, it was revealed that the undisclosed funds parked abroad were used by these groups for acquiring immovable properties in several countries such as the UK, Portugal, UAE, etc in the name of defunct companies incorporated abroad, with funds layered through foreign bank accounts, for meeting the personal expenses of the promoters and their family members abroad and routing back funds in their Indian entities.
During the search, evidence related to bogus payments to suppliers for generating cash, unaccounted cash expenditure, hawala transactions, over-invoicing were gathered. Unaccounted cash and jewellery to the tune of over Rs. 2 crore was seized from the residential and business premises respectively and over 50 bank lockers were sealed.
In another development, the IT department raided homes of directors of sugar mills- Daund Sugar, Pune, Jarandeshwar Sugar, Satara, Pushpadanteshwar Sugar, Nandurbar, and Ambalika Sugar, Ahmednagar in Maharashtra on Thursday.
The raids were conducted also at Ajit Pawar’s son Parth Pawar’s office, offices of Shivalik Group and D B Reality.All the directors of sugar mills are considered to be close to Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar. Reacting to the raids, Pawar said that “I don’t know whether the raids were conducted for political purposes or they want more information since we have been paying taxes on time. My only grief is that the IT conducted raids on the premises related to my three sisters. One of them stays in Kolhapur and the other two in Pune. If raids were conducted because they are my sisters, then people of the state should think about the level the central agencies are being misused,” Pawar said.
Pawar’s name had surfaced in a money laundering case involving Maharashtra State Co-operative (MSC) Bank in July. The Enforcement Directorate (ED) had attached assets worth Rs.65.75 crore belonging to a sugar mill in Satara district in connection with the case.