The Income Tax Department has issued fresh summons to RJD chief Lalu Prasad’s MP daughter Misa Bharti in connection with its probe in the Rs 1,000 crore alleged benami land deals and tax evasion case. Bharti was supposed to appear before the investigating officer (IO) of the case but officials said she failed to keep the date.
She has now been asked to appear before the IO on June 12, officials said. It is understood that a lawyer representing the Rajya Sabha MP wanted to depose before the IO but the summons required her to appear in person.
Bharti’s husband Shailesh Kumar has been summoned in the same case by the department for Wednesday. The department wants to question the couple to take the probe further in this case, where the taxman had conducted multiple searches last month.
A chartered accountant, Rajesh Kumar Agrawal, allegedly linked to Bharti and others was also arrested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on May 22. Agrawal is alleged to have aided in llegal transactions involving Lalu’s kin.
Officials had said that the summonses to Bharti and Kumar are part of the investigation in the case and their statements will be recorded. The couple are alleged to have links with a firm– Ms Mishail Packers and Printers Private Limited– which is suspected to have entered into benami deals for purchase of a farm house in Delhi’s Bijwasan area.
Certain other property deals are also under the scanner of the taxman, they had said. I-T department officials had said they will apply provisions of the newly enacted Benami Transactions Act, 1988, which became operational from November 1 last year, in this case. The law provides for a maximum punishment of seven years in jail and a fine.
The action under this new law will be over and above the legal proceedings under the Income Tax Act, 1961, which relates to charges of domestic tax evasion. Tax department officials had said Lalu’s kin held some of the properties under their scanner in a ‘benami’ way. Benami properties are those in which the real beneficiary is not the one in whose name the property has been purchased.
The RJD chief, however, had sought to put up a brave face after the raids, saying he was “not scared at all” and will continue to fight against “fascist forces”.
“BJP mein himmat nahi hai ki Lalu ki awaz ko daba sake… Lalu ki awaz dabayenge to desh bhar me karoron Lalu khare ho jayenge… Main gidarbhabhki se nahi darne wala hoon (BJP does not have the courage to stifle my voice… If it tries to silence one Lalu, crores of Lalu will come forward. I am not scared of empty threats),” he had said in a series of tweets after the search operation.
The BJP had also accused Prasad, Bharti and his two sons Tejashwi and Tej Pratap, both Bihar government ministers, of being involved in corrupt land deals worth over Rs 1,000 crore, and asked the central government to probe one such transaction in Delhi.
Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had alleged that these transactions were a case of “quid pro quo”, suggesting that money was paid in return for favour, as they dated back to the period when Lalu was the railway minister, and dared Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar to take action against him.
Lalu’s RJD is a constituent of Bihar’s ruling coalition led by Kumar. Lalu’s official residence was the address of the owners of the firms allegedly floated by his family members, Ravi Shankar Prasad had said.