I-T Department detects alleged irregularities involving hundreds of crores of rupees

I-T at the residence of Dainik Bhaskar Group M.D. Sudhir Agarwal in Bhopal.   | Photo Credit: A.M.FARUQUI

Two days after the Income-Tax (I-T) Department searched the premises linked to the Dainik Bhaskar Group and Bharat Samachar Group, the agency on Saturday issued statements without naming any companies, alleging that it had detected income escapement of ₹700 crore and unaccounted transactions exceeding ₹200 crore in two cases.

The searches carried out on the Dainik Bhaskar Group and Bharat Samachar Group premises on July 22 had triggered widespread criticism.

With respect to the first case, the agency said the group was involved in businesses in various sectors, including media, power, textiles and real estate, with a turnover of over ₹6,000 crore per annum. “Twenty residential and 12 business premises spread over nine cities including Mumbai, Delhi, Bhopal, Indore, Noida and Ahmedabad have been covered,” it said.

The group has over 100 companies. “During the search, it was found that they have been operating several companies in the names of their employees, which have been used for booking bogus expenses and routing of funds...several of the employees, whose names were used as shareholders and directors, have admitted that they were not aware of such companies and had given their Aadhaar card and digital signature to the employer in good faith,” the agency alleged.

Also read: I-T raids on Dainik Bhaskar Group is an attempt to intimidate media, says Opposition

It is alleged that some were relatives who willingly and knowingly signed the papers, but had no knowledge or control over the entities in which they were supposedly directors and shareholders.

“Such companies have been used for multiple purposes namely; booking bogus expenses and siphoning off the profits from listed companies, routing of funds so siphoned into their closely held companies to make investments, making of circular transactions, etc.,” the agency alleged, adding that income escapement detected so far was ₹700 crore spread over six years.

Alleged violations under the Companies Act and the Listing Agreement prescribed by the Securities and Exchange Board of India for listed companies, apart from application of the Benami Transaction Prohibition Act, would also be examined.

“Cyclical trading and transfer of funds among group companies engaged in unrelated businesses to the tune of ₹2,200 crore has been found,” it said.

The agency alleged that the group’s real estate entity was sanctioned a term loan of ₹597 crore, of which ₹408 crore was diverted to a sister concern as loan at a low interest rate of 1%.

“The listed media company does barter deals for advertisement revenues, whereby immovable properties are received in lieu of actual payments. Evidence has been found indicating cash receipts in respect of subsequent sale of such properties...a total of 26 lockers have been found in the residential premises of the promoters and key employees of the group...,” it said.

The I-T Department’s second statement pertained to the searches in Uttar Pradesh’s Lucknow, Basti, Varanasi, Jaunpur and Kolkata, on the group dealing in mining, hospitality, news media, liquor and real estate. The agency seized Rs.3 crore in cash and placed under restraint 16 lockers.

“Evidence found during searches establishes that the group has been earning huge outside-the-books income through mining, processing and sales in liquor, flour business, real estate, etc.,” said the agency, alleging that the consequent unaccounted income exceeded ₹90 crore as per preliminary findings.

The agency said over 15 companies set up in Kolkata and other places actually did not exist. “Share premia of over Rs.30 crore were collected by these shell companies through other similar entities or individuals of no means...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,” it said.

The agency alleged that one group branch voluntarily disclosed an income of ₹20 crore when confronted with evidence. It also alleged that unaccounted layering via bogus entities exceeded ₹170 crore, while unaccounted transactions exceeded ₹200 crore.

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Printable version | Sep 27, 2021 6:47:53 AM |

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