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Nobody knew of Balaji Group until raid

mumbai Updated: Nov 05, 2009 00:55 IST
Manish Pachouly
Manish Pachouly
Hindustan Times
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Few in the bustling lanes of Zaveri Bazaar knew of the Balaji Group until Saturday when the income tax (I-T) department raided it.

The company’s office, located on the third floor of an old building in Zaveri Bazaar, was raided for allegedly transferring former Jharkhand Chief Minister and Member of Parliament Madhu Koda’s funds amounting to Rs 1,500 crore through hawala (illegal transfer of money).

Traders in Zaveri Bazaar did not know that apart from the bullion business, the company had interests in the import and export of diamonds, real estate, shipping, foreign exchange and commodity trading.

“Manoj Punamiya [chairman and managing director of the group] was a low profile man,” said a gold dealer requesting anonymity.

The company was known by different names. “Some called it Bokadia Bullion while others called it Joy Bullion,” said another trader. The company also has a Nariman Point address, which nobody in Zaveri Bazar knew of. The group, with a total turnover of Rs 1,000 crore, has 10 companies in Mumbai, Noida, Surat and Dubai.

Established in 1993 on a small level with dealings in gold and silver, the company diversified in 2006-2007 when it started a realty division and began trading in and manufacturing gold, diamonds and jewellery.

The company is also into ship management and manning and owns two dry cargo vessels. It also has a foreign exchange division that claims to serve corporate and private clients.

The I-T and Enforcement Directorate (ED) are now monitoring the company’s working. “We want to find out the veracity of the company’s claims,” said an ED official.

Authorities suspect that a few companies of the group--including Balaji Bullions and Commodities (India) Private Limited and Balaji Universal Trade Link Private Limited--were floated in 2007 mainly for hawala transactions and money laundering.

I-T department in Mumbai said the group undertook transactions of Rs 1,500 crore since 2007.

Balaji Universal Trade Link also got two units allotted in the Noida Special Economic Zone for manufacturing and trading of gold, diamonds and jewellery in 2007.

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