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August 21, 2020

IT Officers pose as COVID-19 warriors to conduct raid in Bhopal

IT Officers pose as COVID-19 warriors to conduct raid in Bhopal

The frontline COVID-19 responders, be it the police officials or the healthcare workers, are the COVID warriors who risk their lives while battling the lethal coronavirus infection and leaving no stone unturned to keep the country safe.

Posing as COVID Warriors from MP Health Department, 150 income tax officers of Madhya Pradesh’s Income Tax Department on 20th August, 2020 launched a coordinated raid at 20 premises of two business groups including a builder in the city of Bhopal.

This is also not the first time that IT Officials had entered to conduct search posed as someone else. In 2018, I-T officers had posed as wedding guests and pasted stickers that said ‘Ankur weds Swati’ and ‘Chaturvedi pariwar aapka swagat karta hai’ on 150 hired cars.

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Who did the raided properties belong to?

  • The properties raided belonged to the business group owned by Piyush Gupta and the Faith Group, a major builder and realtor group owned by Raghvendra Singh Tomar.
  • Raghvendra Tomar, is considered close to a powerful BJP leader and MP cabinet minister from Gwalior-Chambal region, who played a key role in the fall of the Kamal Nath led Congress government in Madhya Pradesh in March 2020.

On what basis was the property of the accused raided?

  • The searches are being carried out after getting specific inputs and evidence of large scale tax evasion
  • Information of the existence of properties disproportionate to known sources of income was also obtained.
  • This could lead to major disclosures about the links of at least one of the business groups with bureaucrats, politicians and police officers and possible unaccounted investments made by the rich and influential lot in the group and its properties.

How was the search conducted?

  • Multiple teams of 150 Income Tax officials guarded by MP Police Special Armed Force (SAF) personnel swooped on the 20 premises across Bhopal early on the morning of 20th August, 2020.
  • As per a well-devised plan, the tax sleuths boarding vehicles bearing stickers reading “Government of Madhya Pradesh, Health Department COVID-19 Team Welcomes You” started the searches since 5.30 am.

What did the initial search reveal?

  • The ongoing searches are likely to continue for three to four days.
  • The initial search has led to documents pertaining to 100 immovable properties related to the two business groups whose value could run into several hundred crores.
  • Around Rs 1 crore in cash and jewellery was recovered from these premises besides documents. 
  • The properties located in Bhopal and adjoining Sehore included two upscale cricket grounds with hi-tech facilities.

Aftermath of the initial search:

  • In the wake of the searches at Tomar’s house, state Congress leader Narendra Saluja (also media coordinator of MP Congress president Kamal Nath) made a series of tweets accusing the powerful BJP leaders in the state of being associated with the Faith Group chairman.
  • In the tweets, Saluja alleged that the IT department searches have exposed internal tussle within the BJP in Gwalior-Chambal region.
  • Saluja stated that “This is nothing, but a move to limit the rising stature of a cabinet minister. Recently the same minister had publicly admitted that Raghvendra Singh Tomar was like his younger brother. Now the BJP needs to clarify that minister’s relations with Tomar.”
  • The state BJP spokesperson Rajneesh Agrawal, however, termed the Congress leader’s tweets as baseless and unfounded.
  • Rajneesh Agrawal stated that “The Income Tax department is doing its job as per law, but the Congress is making false accusations just to defame BJP politicians.”

The Income Tax Department’s ‘search-and-survey operations’, more commonly known as ‘raids’, has always been one of the worst nightmares of illegitimate businessmen and individuals. They fear that once caught, they will have to make heavy tax and penalty payments apart from overcoming other legal hurdles.

It is important to remember that one can lawfully avoid a tax raid by being compliant in terms of responding to summons and notices sent to him by the department and also refrain from keeping money, property undeclared.

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