Income Tax Seizures From Sasikala’s Firms Hint at Benami Transactions

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As the searches by the Income Tax department on the properties of the Jailed AIADMK leader V.K. Sasikala and her family members continued for the fourth day on Sunday, investigators said that 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’ said that 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 the purchase of these properties and account for the same,” he said.

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 the recent times. A large volume of documents has been seized, and more may come out soon. A sizeable number of documents were seized from a house in T. Nagar. The market value of these assets could be several hundreds of Crores of Rupees,” he said.

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 of 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.

These Assets not accounted for will be confiscated under the Benami Transactions Prohibition Amended Act, 2016, the Income Tax Official said.

Dismissing it as ‘baseless’ the reports of bank accounts of shell companies being frozen by the Income Tax department, the Income Tax Official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said such action would be taken, if needed, only after the conclusion of the 'Operation Clean Money'.

With regard to the timing of the 'Operation Clean Money', particularly in the backdrop of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Chennai last week, the Income Tax Official said the Investigation wing had been working on this particular mission for quite some time from now, well in advance.

“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 the recent times.

A large volume of documents has been seized, and more may come out soon. A sizeable number of documents were seized from a house in T. Nagar. The market value of these assets could be several hundreds of Crores of Rupees,” the Income Tax Official said. 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 in abroad.

In the Meanwhile, the Income Tax officials raided the farmhouse of the sidelined AIADMK Deputy General Secretary T.T.V Dhinakaran near Bommayarpalayam in the Villupuram District.

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