Anil Deshmukh’s premises searched: I-T department suspects ₹17-cr tax evasion
After carrying out searches at the premises of firms, trusts and organisations linked to Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Anil Deshmukh, the Income-Tax (I-T) department suspects that the former Maharashtra home minister committed a tax evasion of ₹17 crore. The department has begun investigation in the case, it said on Monday, in a statement without naming Deshmukh. However, senior I-T officials confirmed that the assessee in question is Deshmukh.
Deshmukh’s lawyer Inderpal Singh had in past said, “The I-T department’s action on Deshmukh is very surprising as his tax assessments (files) are clear. He has never received any intimation or notice in the past 20 years from the I-T department. The action (searches) is nothing, but pure political harassment.”
Deshmukh was not available for comment.
On Friday, the I-T Department had carried out a search operation at more than 30 premises spread across Nagpur, Mumbai, New Delhi and Kolkata. The tax agency said that during the course of the operation, many incriminating documents, loose sheets and other digital evidences were seized.
“These evidences clearly indicate the involvement of the [Deshmukh’s] group in unaccounted financial transactions made outside the regular books of accounts including inflation of expenses, money laundering, bogus donation receipts, unaccounted cash expenses,” the agency said.
The agency claims that it has evidence on the receipts of bogus donation in the hands of the trust run by the assesse group through money laundering and using Delhi-based companies to the extent of ₹4.00 crore. This clearly substantiates laundering of the unaccounted income of the assesse routed as donation to the trust, the agency officials added.
Further, specific evidences have been unearthed which reveal that three educational institutions of the trust have indulged in inflation of expenses in which salaries paid to the employees were partly collected back in cash. Such evidences were found for several financial years amounting to more than ₹12 crore, the I-T department said.
During the search, it was also detected that the trust, apart from suppression of receipts, has paid substantial amounts to brokers for arranging admissions. Such payments, of about ₹87 lakh, have been paid in cash and are completely unaccounted for, officials have said.
“Evidence found during the search clearly indicates concealment of income to the extent of about ₹17 crore,” the I-T department statement read.
Several bank lockers found during the course of the search operation have been put under prohibitory orders. The evidence gathered during the search is being examined and further investigations are in progress, the statement released by Surabhi Ahluwalia, commissioner of I-T (media and technical policy) and spokesperson of Central Board of Direct Taxes, read.
Earlier the Enforcement Directorate has also claimed that Deshmukh had used “paper” companies to route the money as donations to an educational trust headed by his family, which runs engineering and polytechnic colleges in Nagpur.
According to ED, the money was first sent to two brothers in Delhi, who operated bogus companies, and at the behest of Deshmukh’s son Hrishikesh, diverted the cash as donations to Nagpur-based Shri Sai Shikshan Sansthan, a trust controlled by the ex-minister and his family.
Deshmukh has been at the centre of controversies this year. On August 23, ED had filed a charge sheet against his personal secretary Sanjeev Palande and assistant Kundan Shinde in a money laundering case, in which the former minister is the main accused. The charge sheet also includes a statement from dismissed Mumbai Police officer Sachin Vaze, who is one of the accused in the Antilla explosives scare and Mansukh Hiran murder cases.
In his statement to ED, Vaze has claimed that ₹40 crore was collected from 10 deputy commissioners of police (DCPs) and “paid” to Deshmukh and another minister for “letting the order of then city police commissioner Param Bir Singh to transfer them go through”.
The money laundering case against Deshmukh and his aides was registered after the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) filed a first information report (FIR) against the minister on April 21. The basis of the FIR was the corruption allegations made by Singh who had alleged that Deshmukh had demanded a monthly collection of ₹100 crore from Mumbai’s bars and restaurants, a claim that eventually forced the NCP leader to resign.