I-T attaches Rs150 cr worth ‘benami’ hotel of Cong leader Kuldeep Bishnoi
A five-star hotel in a prime business area of Gurugram, worth ₹150 crore, has been attached by the income-tax department, which designated it as a “benami” or unaccounted for property of Haryana Congress leader Kuldeep Bishnoi and his brother, officials privy to the matter said on Tuesday.
They added that the department’s Delhi-based anti-benami unit has issued an order for attachment of the property, identified as Bristol Hotel in DLF Phase-1, under Section 24(3) of the Prohibition of Benami Property Transactions Act of 1988.
The hotel, as per the order, is owned in the name of a company called Bright Star Hotel Private Limited.
The latest action comes in the wake of raids conducted by the department on 13 premises linked to Bishnoi in Haryana, Delhi and Himachal Pradesh on July 23 on charges of alleged tax evasion.
Sources from the income tax department said their probe has found that 34% shares in the company are held in the name of a “front” company, which is registered in British Virgin Islands and operated from the UAE.
The hotel entity under question and the properties held by it are “the benami assets of Kuldeep Bishnoi and Chander Mohan (Bishnoi’s brother)”, said the officials concerned. Benami properties are those in which the real beneficiary is not the one in whose name the property is purchased.
The two brothers are sons of the former chief minister of Haryana, late Bhajan Lal. While Bishnoi is a Congress MLA (member of the legislative assembly) from the Adampur constituency, Mohan is a former deputy CM of the state.
Sources, quoting the I-T order, said benami shareholders of the British Virgin Islands entity are “close confidantes” of the Bishnoi family. They said the control over the affairs of the entity rests with the Bishnois and the money paid for the acquisition of shares in Bright Star Hotel Private Limited was “arranged by the Bishnois.” The Bishnois were “managing actual affairs” of the entity through their associates based in India and abroad, the department claimed in the order.
After the completion of raids, the department stated in an official statement that foreign assets worth over ₹200 crore allegedly linked to Bishnoi and his family have been detected and are being probed by it.
Asked about the action against Bishnoi, senior Congress leader Anand Sharma said, “It is being done because Haryana elections are coming. As the elections are there, then they[BJP] need to take aim. First they will feed you with nationalism, polarisation, religion-based politics and allegations.”
The Congress leader said that if these issues were not there, “then the people will question the BJP over employment and economy”. “So to avoid these questions, these narratives are raised ahead of elections.”
Violators of the anti-benami law, which was enacted in
1988 but started to be implemented from November 2016 onwards by the Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP) government, attract a rigorous imprisonment of up to seven years and a fine up to 25% of the fair market value of the property.
The Act allows for the prosecution of the beneficial owner, the benamidar, the abettor and the inducer to the benami transaction.
It also states that the benami assets, after final prosecution, are liable to be confiscated by the government without payment of compensation.