I-T seizures | PM Modi says money looted from public will have to be returned

Income Tax department has recovered a total of over ₹220 crore in cash during raids in places linked to an Odisha-based distillery group

December 09, 2023 12:12 am | Updated 01:44 am IST - Bhubaneswar/Ranchi

Cash seized by the Income Tax department after raids against a Odisha-based distellery group and linked entities.

Cash seized by the Income Tax department after raids against a Odisha-based distellery group and linked entities. | Photo Credit: PTI

With the Income Tax department recovering a total of over ₹220 crore in cash during raids in places linked to an Odisha-based distillery group till Friday afternoon, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the money looted from the public would have to be returned.

Mr. Modi was apparently referring to political leaders in Odisha and Jharkhand who have links with the liquor firm.

"The countrymen should look at the pile of these notes and then listen to the honest 'speeches' of their leaders…..Whatever has been looted from the public, every penny will have to be returned, this is Modi’s guarantee," Mr. Modi said in a Hindi post on X, formerly Twitter.

The Prime Minister also attached a photo of a Hindi newspaper in which the cash recovered by the I-T department was shown stacked.

The mobile phone of a Jharkhand MP, who allegedly has links with the liquor company, was found switched off when PTI tried to contact him. Employees in his Ranchi office said the MP was not available.

156 bags of cash

Continuing its raids, the Income Tax department on Friday found 156 bags of cash during the search for the third consecutive day in places linked to an Odisha-based distillery group on charges of tax evasion, officials said.

From the bags, ₹20 crore were counted till now, taking the total amount so far recovered to ₹220 crore.

The department officials recovered as many as 156 bags containing cash during the raid at Sudapada in Bolangir district on Friday.

"Of the 156 bags, only 6/7 were counted and the amount found was ₹20 crore," an official said.

The raids were carried out at Sambalpur, Bolangir, Titilagarh, Boudh, Sundargarh, Rourkela and Bhubaneswar.

The company is yet to provide any reaction to the raids.

BJP demands CBI probe

Meanwhile, the Odisha unit of the BJP at a press conference demanded a CBI probe into the entire episode and sought clarification from the ruling BJD in Odisha.

BJP spokesperson Manoj Mohapatra also showed photographs of a woman Minister from Odisha's western region, in which she was found sharing a dais with one of the liquor traders on whose premises the I-T raids are being conducted.

The BJP spokesperson claimed that this veracity of tax evasion could not be possible without the active support and patronage of the local leaders and the State government.

He asked, "What were Odisha's Excise department, vigilance wing, intelligence wing and economic offence wing doing?" BJD MLA Satyanarayan Pradhan, however, rejected the allegation of the BJP and claimed that Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik hates corruption and believes in transparency.

"The people found guilty will certainly be punished as our Chief Minister always says that law will take its own course," Mr. Pradhan said.

Around ₹200 crore in cash was seized on Thursday during raids at the Bolangir office of Baldeo Sahu & Group of Companies, a major country liquor manufacturer in western Odisha.

The raids were conducted at some houses, offices, and distillery at Sargipali in Sundargarh city on Wednesday.

The I-T team also searched the corporate office of Boudh Distillery Pvt Ltd at Palasapalli in Bhubaneswar, the houses of some company officials, the company's factory and office in Boudh and the Ranisati Rice Mill.

Former I-T Commissioner Sarat Chandra Dash said this could be the largest cash seizure by the Income Tax department in Odisha so far. "I have never come across recovery of such a huge amount of cash in the State," Mr. Dash said.

I-T department DG Sanjay Bahadur has reached Bhubaneswar on Thursday and is monitoring the entire operations. No one was arrested in this connection.

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