Following interception of calls in the spot-fixing probe by Delhi police, in which prominent Mumbai bullion trader Prithviraj Kothari’s name came up, the Mumbai income tax (I-T) authorities on Tuesday conducted searches on around 40 of his premises in Mumbai and other cities. Kothari owns RiddiSiddhi Bullions Ltd and is also the former president of Bombay Bullion Association.
Though investigations are on to find Kothari’s link with the T20 tournament betting, the I-T officials, around 400 of whom were part of the raids, found evidence of Rs 1,000 crore worth hawala (illegal channel of transferring money) transactions allegedly conducted by him; a large amount of cash was also found during the searches, which is now being counted.
Kothari, however, denied involvement in T20 betting and hawala. “Let I-T do its inquiry,” he said, adding, “What do we have to do with T20?” He said his company deals only in cheques and there is no cash transaction. Kothari said the inquiry might take three days to complete.
Sources in I-T said account books of RiddiSiddhi showed the company’s annual turnover as around Rs. 25,000 crore.
“However, we have found that a substantial portion of import of bullion shown is bogus,” an I-T official said. He added the fake entries were used to cover up the hawala transactions.
Authorities also found some hawala transactions took place through a number of banks, including a nationalised bank. “Once our investigation is over, we will also submit a report to the RBI about these banks’ involvement ,” the official said.
Sources said they could not record Kothari’s statement after the searches began, as he was not available. The department covered around 40 locations belonging to Kothari, his company, its various branches, his relatives and business associates.
An angadia (local courier) was also searched for complicity in the alleged hawala transactions. The I-T also raided branches of Kothari’s company in Delhi, Ahmedabad and Chennai. The operation will continue on Wednesday.