Tamil Nadu

Seizures made from I-T dept. searches on Sasikala, kin properties hint at benami transactions

As many as 37 locations were targeted on Sunday.   | Photo Credit: K. Pichumani

As the searches by the Income Tax department at the properties of jailed AIADMK leader V.K. Sasikala and her family members continued for the fourth day on Sunday, investigators said they had recovered documents pertaining to the purchase of assets worth several hundreds of crores of rupees across Tamil Nadu which, they suspect, are benami transactions.

The number of locations where simultaneous searches were carried out came down to 37 across Chennai, Coimbatore and Puducherry, while incriminating documents were seized from about 150 other locations over the past three days.

A senior Income Tax officer involved in ‘Operation Clean Money’ told The Hindu that the objective of the massive exercise was to unearth benami assets. He did not specify details of the cash or gold seized so far. “We have seized documents [hinting at] huge benami assets. It appears that prime properties in Tamil Nadu have been purchased in the names of household staff like car drivers, servants, assistants, etc. and friends or business associates of the main suspects. We will serve notices asking them to explain the source of income [for purchase of these properties] and account for the same,” he said.

The assets not accounted for will be confiscated under the Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Amended Act, 2016, the officer said.

'Reports baseless'

Dismissing as ‘baseless’ the reports of bank accounts of shell companies being frozen by the Income Tax department, the officer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said such action would be taken, if needed, after the conclusion of the operation.

On the timing of the operation, particularly in the backdrop of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Chennai last week, the official said the investigation wing had been working on the mission for quite some time now.

“We had specific inputs of [suspected] large scale benami transactions involving the family members [of Sasikala] over a period of time. Adequate homework was done before launching the operation, which is one of the biggest in recent times. A large volume of documents has been seized, and more may come out soon. A sizeable number of documents was seized from a house in T. Nagar. The market value of these assets could be several hundreds of crores [of Rupees],” the official said. W

When asked if there was any evidence of foreign investments, the officer said the suspects would be asked to declare their assets in India and abroad.

“If they don’t disclose [their assets] voluntarily, we will invoke the provisions under the Black Money (Undisclosed Foreign Income and Assets) and Imposition of Tax Act, 2015. If need be, experts from the Foreign Tax and Tax Research division would be roped in to assist us in the investigation,” he said.

Another officer said the department would officially come out with details of property documents, gold and cash seized in the operation soon. He parried questions on the seizures made in New Delhi and Bengaluru.

'Law will take its own course'

“Going by the quantum and value of the seizures, a clear case of prima facie offence has been established. Now, the law will take its own course,” he said.

Income tax officials raided the farm house of sidelined AIADMK deputy general secretary T.T.V Dhinakaran near Bommayarpalayam in Villupuram district.


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Printable version | Nov 29, 2021 7:37:44 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/i-t-seizures-from-sasikalas-firms-hint-at-benami-transactions/article20377569.ece

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