Did a top steel company make four payments totalling Rs. 2.27 crore between October 2009 and August 2010 to the then Union minister of steel?
A document seized during an income-tax department search at the offices of Ispat Industries in Delhi on November 30, 2010 appears to suggest the same.
The 45-page document is the steel firm's chairman and managing director's expense account details, which were signed after seizure by deputy director (investigations) Prashant Khambra and two witnesses.
When HT spoke to Khambra, he confirmed being part of the search party.
The Central Board of Direct Taxes spokesperson did not offer any comments after Hindustan Times sent a detailed questionnaire to the board's chairperson.
The document lists payments made from the CMD's account at Delhi to various ministries, public sector undertakings and individuals, some of whom are mentioned in abbreviated form.
The document, which records amounts paid on various heads, lists four payments totalling Rs. 227,24,535 to a "VBS" between October 28, 2009, and August 24, 2010.
Besides, it also lists payments of smaller amounts made to "Minister of Steel APS" and "MOS APS".
While attempts to contact the then Union minister, who is a senior Congress party leader, did not meet with success, HT spoke to the private secretary and the officer on special duty of the then minister who denied receiving payments from any steel company.
When contacted, Pramod Mittal, who was the chairman of Ispat Industries during the period mentioned in the documents said: "I don't know about any such payments. I left India 14 years ago and am now based in London. I was non-executive chairman of the company for the last one decade. There was no post of CMD in the company. As per my knowledge, advance tax was paid and the assessment is still going on.
In the last one decade, I attended only a few board meetings of the company. I don't know about any expense account maintained by the company. I resigned from the chairmanship of the company more than a decade back."
Soon after the raid, in January 2010, the minister was divested of the steel portfolio and was given a relatively lightweight ministry.
He is now the Congress party's lead campaigner in a poll-bound state.
Meanwhile, Ispat Industries was sold to JSW Steel on December 21, 2010, 21 days after the I-T search on its office premises.