The mystery over the Rs 3.5 crore cash that disappeared from a Nagaland airport after being flown in a chartered aircraft from Hisar on Tuesday has been solved.
The cash, all in scrapped Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 banknotes, is legitimate, certified by the income-tax department and has been handed over to the owner -- Anato Zhimomi, a Naga businessman.
Zhimomi, said sources, had given the money to one Amarjeet Singh, a businessman from Bihar, to buy farm land in Haryana. The deal didn’t materialise and the money was returned.
The income-tax department handed over the cash to Zhimomi, who is the son-in-law of Nagaland’s Lok Sabha member and former chief minister Neiphiu Rio.
The I-T department on November 11 gave Zhimomi a certificate to transport the money from Hisar, saying he was exempt from paying tax, sources said.
Nagas, like all resident tribes of the sixth schedule areas of the Northeast, are exempt from paying income tax.
The sixth schedule is a special provision in the Indian Constitution that gives tribal communities considerable autonomy in the states of Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Manipur (minus the Imphal valley) and tribal councils of Assam and Tripura.
There is no cap on the money they can keep in their bank accounts, raising fears that the region could be used as a tax haven to park unaccounted for cash following the government’s decision to cull high-value banknotes, a move step, it said, would unearth black money.
While the ownership of cash has been established, the disappearance from Dimapur airport and the return is still fuzzy.
The money was seized by the personnel of the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), which is tasked with securing airports across the country, after they were tipped off by Delhi colleagues.
The CISF alerted I-T officials.
When the plane landed at Dimapur around 10am on Tuesday, Singh’s bag was frisked and money seized. But, the cash “disappeared” two hours later after Singh flew back in the same plane to Delhi with Zhimomi and two others.
The police seized CCTV footage from the airport to track the money. “We are sure that the money was taken away by an individual. But the CISF personnel on duty and income tax (IT) officials denied having handed the money over to anyone,” Dimapur police commissioner Liremo Lotha had said.
He said the CISF personnel denied handing over the money to the income-tax sleuths while the taxmen said they issued a seizure memo but the CISF didn’t hand over the cash to them.
What happened in between is still a mystery.