Income tax (I-T) officials on Wednesday recovered more than Rs 125 crore in cash in the basement of the Centrestage Mall in Noida owned by the UP liquor baron, Gurdeep Singh Chadha, better known as Ponty.
Earlier, on suspicion of alleged tax evasion by Chadha and the group of companies he runs, the I-T department scoured his 25 offices and residences across Delhi, Noida, Lucknow and Moradabad. Premises of his associates Lalit Kapoor and Gurjeet Kochhar were also searched.
What’s more, I-T officials are working on leads that funds from West Asia may have flowed through the hawala route into Chadha’s businesses that have now been consolidated under an umbrella entity, Wave Inc.
The rise of Chadha’s business empire, whose interests spread across liquor, sugar mills, multiplexes and malls, distribution rights of Bollywood movies and construction, has been significant during the last three years.
HT could not contact Chadha as he is believed to be in Dubai. Phone calls to his residence also went unattended, while his mobile phone was switched off.
I-T department sources told HT another Rs 38.75 crore was recovered from the premises of one of his relatives. “It’s too early to say anything on the exact quantum of cash found, but the officials are also looking into the books recovered from various locations,” an I-T official said.
Sources in Lucknow quote the liquor baron’s adversaries questioning the Mayawati government’s decision to hand over the wholesale end — and retailing in some districts — of the Rs 6,000-crore liquor trade in UP to a Chadha company. Anil Agarwal, acting president of the Lucknow Sharaab Association and media chief of UP Sharaab Association, said, “Ponty Chadha has monopolised the liquor business. The wholesale business used to be auctioned through a lottery system during the previous regime and there used to be 25 to 30 wholesalers in the state.”
Chadha started his liquor business in Punjab where he was believed to be close to the Congress government, but his business expanded manifold in UP. In 2010, he bagged five of the 11 sick sugar mills sold by the UP government.