Operating from the third floor of an old building in Mumbai’s crowded Zaveri Bazar, Balaji Group has been a little known entity till Saturday when the Income Tax (I-T) department raided it for illegally transferring former Jharkhand chief minister Madhu Koda’s money.
Local businessmen only knew that the company was into bullion trade, but nobody had any idea that the company was allegedly involved in hawala (illegal money transfer) business and that it was also into real estate, foreign exchange, commodity trading and import-export of diamond.
And nobody in Zaveri Bazar knew that the company also had a posh Nariman Point address.
The group, set up in 1993 as a small bullion trading business, now has 10 companies in Mumbai, Noida in Uttar Pradesh, Surat in Gujarat and Dubai with a total turnover of Rs 1,000 crore. It began diversifying from 2006-2007 into realty, gold, diamond, jewellery and precious metals.
Balaji Group is also into ship management and manning. The shipping branch of the firm owns two dry cargo vessels. It also has a foreign exchange division.
The I-T and Enforcement Directorate (ED) authorities are now monitoring the functioning of the company. “We want to find out the veracity of the claims of the company,” said an ED official, who did not wish to be identified.
The authorities suspect that a few group companies, including Balaji Bullions and Commodities (India) Private Ltd and Balaji Universal Trade Link Private Ltd, were floated in 2007 mainly for money laundering.
The I-T department in Mumbai said the group’s Rs 1,500-crore transaction was made since the two companies were incorporated.
Zaveri Bazar businessmen hardly knew about Balaji Group, they only knew the group chief Manoj Punamiya, who was a low-profile man. A trader said, “Some called it Bokadia Bullion, others called it Joy Bullion.”