I-T department claims tax evasion after raids on premises linked to Haryana Congress MLA

NEW DELHI: The Income Tax Department on Thursday claimed to have detected tax evasion worth crores of rupees after it raided the premises of businesses linked to Haryana Congress MLA Dharam Singh Chhokar and others.

The Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT), the policy-making body for the tax department, said the group that was searched on Wednesday is engaged in the business of real estate, housing, hospitality and retail liquor trade.

The CBDT did not identify the group in a statement issued here but official sources said the businesses were linked to Chhokar, the member of Legislative Assembly from Samalkha seat in the state.

Tax sleuths covered a dozen premises in Samalkha, Gurgaon, Rohtak and Panchkula during the raids and the action was carried out due to “non-compliance” to faceless assessment notices.

This is probably the first reported case where coercive action like a raid has been carried out by the department after the assessee allegedly failed to comply with the newly brought faceless assessment procedures.

“Notices under the faceless assessment scheme sent to certain assessees were consistently not complied with even though received by them,” the CBDT claimed.

“Data analytics revealed that the recipients were persons of no or low means. Subsequent internal and discreet enquiries revealed that the said persons were the front for the above said group and were also the benamidars of some of the group members,” it alleged.

The probe found that the persons to whom the notices were issued were engaged in a liquor business run by the group.

“It was found that such persons to whom liquor licences were issued were the benamidars of the main group members. They were persons of no means and they have stated on oath that they have no knowledge of the business being run in their names,” the CBDT said.

“It seems that their names have been misused to avail the quota reserved for SC/ST section. Further investigation is on to establish the money trail and real ownership. Suitable action under Benami Prohibition Act will be taken in all such cases,” the statement said.

It said the taxman collected evidence proving bogus booking of flats in the name of employees/relatives and unidentifiable persons, in the affordable housing scheme project of the group.

“The company has allotted houses to the employees of the group members, whose un-encashed cheques have been found at the premises. However, flats have been further sold to the actual buyer at a premium of Rs 6-10 lakh each,” the CBDT alleged.

The premiums have been received in cash and not accounted for in the books.

The premium has been charged from the other buyers as well in this affordable housing scheme, the CBDT said.

“Thus, there is not only misuse of the scheme but also tax evasion which is estimated to be not less than Rs 36 crore,” it claimed.

The statement said the group has “claimed bogus expenses on account of building material like cement, raiti (sand), iron bar etc of around Rs 100 crore, in previous years, leading to huge evasion of taxes”.

“Further, it was seen that the group is also regularly claiming huge bogus business promotion expenses, in the previous years, and laundering the cash siphoned off as unaccounted investment in immovable properties,” it claimed.

The CBDT said the group has routed their “unaccounted” income of Rs 70 crore in the form of bogus share capital and unsecured loan, through a shell company which has been invested in the buy-out of a real estate project from a popular builder in Gurgaon.

“Evidence in the form of property documents and title deeds have been found regarding investment in benami properties in India as well as out of the country,” it said.

Claiming that the group has incurred unaccounted expenditure for personal and office purposes in cash that ran into crores of rupees, the CBDT said this includes expenditure for taking various approvals for projects and lavish wedding expenses.

It added that unexplained investment in jewellery of approximate Rs 3 crore has been found and four bank lockers of the group have been put under restraint.