NEW DELHI: The CBDT on Saturday claimed to have seized documents and digital records that indicate “unaccounted” transactions of about Rs 200 crore after it raided Lucknow-based Hindi news channel Bharat Samachar and its linked businesses early this week.
The searches were carried out on July 22 at Lucknow, Basti, Varanasi, Jaunpur and Kolkata and at the residential premises of Bharat Samachar Editor-in-chief Brajesh Misra, state head Virendra Singh, BJP MLA from Uttar Pradesh’s Harraiya (Basti district) assembly seat Ajay Singh and some others.
The CBDT did not identify the group in the statement and said that apart from news media, the group deals in mining, hospitality, liquor and real estate.
Officials identified it to be the case linked to the raids carried out against Bharat Samachar.
“Cash of more than Rs 3 crore has been seized and 16 lockers have been placed under restraint.”
“Documents including incriminating digital evidence indicating nearly Rs 200 crore of unaccounted transactions have been seized,” the CBDT claimed, adding the probe in the case is continuing.
After the raids, Misra said on his official Twitter handle that they are tax-compliant citizens and that they have been paying due taxes for the last two decades.
He added that they have been fighting for the public through their journalistic work and the channel had become “the voice of the poor” when the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic hit the country this year.
The statement claimed that evidence found during searches “establishes” that the business group has been earning huge outside-the-books income through mining, processing and sales in liquor, flour business, real estate, etc.
“Unaccounted income emanating out of these transactions has been found exceeding Rs 90 crore as per preliminary estimates.
This income has been brought back into the books through a network of shell companies and other bogus entities without paying any taxes, thereby creating a charade that the money has been accounted for,” it alleged.
During the searches, more than 15 companies incorporated at Kolkata and other places were found to be “non-existent.”
“Share premia of over Rs 30 crore were collected by these shell companies through other similar entities or through individuals of no means,” the CBDT said, alleging that there was “no economic rationale” for any such premium.
It said the raids “established that individuals as well as shell entities were used by the group to launder huge funds amounting to more than Rs 40 crore, showing them as loans obtained by media companies.”
“Taxation profiling of such shell entities who have provided ‘loans’ indicates that they neither possess the financial ability nor had any economic rationale for advancing such ‘loans’,” it claimed.
It said that “these persons and entities were found to be closely related to the final beneficiaries.”
One of these persons had provided loans of more than Rs 1 crore to media entities and was himself not only unlettered but also of very meagre financial means, the statement said.
“Taxation profiling of each individual and entity indicated that either no returns were filed or very meagre taxes had been paid which were not at all commensurate with the huge amount of loans and premia running into crores,” it said.
The CBDT said it was found that a “paper company” did not have any business, the address mentioned was false and it had no employees.
“Yet it had been paid more than Rs 4 crore of share premium by another bogus concern. Similar modus operandi was also followed in having so-called ‘trade payables’ in the books of the main entities of these businesses through such dubious concerns with unaccounted sources of funds,” it claimed.
These so-called ‘payables’ alone amount to more than Rs 50 crore, it alleged.
The CBDT said that one of the branches of the group has “voluntarily disclosed” an income of Rs 20 crore during the search once they were confronted with the evidence.
“This disclosure includes Rs 13 crore of bogus ‘trade payables’,” it said.
The group, it said, therefore devised a complex strategy of earning huge “unaccounted” income through the creation of sophisticated financial layers of “dubious and bogus” entities spread across multiple states, to route this unaccounted money back into the main businesses without paying any taxes.
“The total amount of such unaccounted layering through bogus entities exceeds Rs 170 crore while the total unaccounted transactions exceed Rs 200 crore,” it claimed.
The CBDT said the “unaccounted” amounts so earned were used partly for the purchase and construction of property.
“Evidence of unaccounted payments in cash running into crores has been found during the search.
“Evidence has also been found to indicate that payments exceeding Rs 2 crore have been made in cash by one of the businesses in violation of provisions of Income-tax Act, 1961,” it alleged.
Huge unaccounted money has also been deposited in a group trust and routed to the main concerns, the statement alleged.