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Income tax dept winds off raids after ten days, sends report to CBDT

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BHUBANESWAR/RANCHI, Dec 15: The Income-tax department raids being carried out against an Odisha-based distillery firm owned by a Congress MP’s family, and some linked entities, ended early Friday, capping ten days of searches and recording the country’s “highest-ever” cash haul at Rs 351 crore, official sources said.

The last two I-T teams left the premises, one each in Odisha and Jharkhand, carrying with them a number of seized “incriminating documents” and data cloned from electronic gadgets in the early morning hours.

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The searches against the firm, Boudh Distillery Pvt. Ltd. (BDPL) and its linked entities were launched last week on December 6.

The taxman also covered the family house of Congress Rajya Sabha MP Dhiraj Prasad Sahu in Ranchi apart from a number of entities including distributors and some hawala operators during these 10-day-long searches, they said.

The searches came to a close in the early hours of December 15, the sources told PTI.

A final appraisal report of the entire operation has been sent as per procedure to the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) in Delhi by the field investigation unit, they said.

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The CBDT is the administrative body for the tax department.

Neither the company nor Sahu has issued any official statement or response on the I-T action till now even as opposition parties including the BJP blamed them for dealing in illicit cash funds.

As many as 30-34 premises in Odisha, Jharkhand and West Bengal were searched by the department and about three kg of gold jewellery was also seized during this operation.

I-T officials have claimed to have made the “highest-ever” cash seizure of Rs 351 crore during these raids, which were launched by the tax department on charges of alleged tax evasion and “out of book” transactions.

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Some of the high-value cash seizures from the past include one from 2019 when the GST Intelligence raided a Kanpur-based businessman and seized cash to the tune of about Rs 257 crore and another instance where cash amounting to Rs 163 crore was unearthed by the I-T department during searches against a road construction firm at Tamil Nadu in July 2018.

The department, during this operation, deployed a ground scanning wheeled machine at Sahu’s house in Ranchi, with a monitor on top, to scan for valuables beneath the surface even as it brought in three dozen currency counting machines, and took the help of various banks and their staffers for counting the huge cash.

The officials said the counting machines failed multiple times as they were being continuously used and even by the fact that many notes were soiled leading to blocking of the infrared sensors that read the thread on the currency to tally the bunch placed inside.

Many notes bunches were counted twice or thrice as the notes were not clean and the teller (staffer counting the currency) had to run the process again to obtain the correct figure, the sources said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday invoked a popular crime series to assail the Congress on the recovery of this huge cash.

BJP MPs led by party chief J P Nadda on Monday held a protest near the Mahatma Gandhi statue in Parliament Complex, alleging the cash seized during the raids proved that the Congress was “neck-deep” in corruption.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg… Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi will have to answer whose money it is and how it was looted,” Nadda had said.

BJP members in Lok Sabha also raised the issue in the House on Monday.

The Congress has distanced itself from the MP, claiming the party has nothing to do with his business.

“The Indian National Congress is in no way connected with the businesses of Dheeraj Sahu, MP. Only he can explain and should explain, how huge amounts of cash have been reportedly unearthed by the income-tax authorities from his properties,” AICC general secretary Communications Jairam Ramesh said in a post on X last week. (PTI)

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