They left for Jalna in 120 vehicles on August 3, taking care to leave separately. All the vehicles were decked up. Some carried boards declaring “dulhan hum le jayenge”. Others had posters saying “Rahul weds Anjali”.
One would be forgiven for assuming that this was a usual bridegroom baraat making its way to a wedding of a familiar-sounding couple.
It was anything but.
The around 250 travellers were Income-Tax (I-T) and local police officers, disguised as baraatis, and on their radar were two major manufacturers of steel TMT bars, suspected of evading tax.
Once they entered Jalna, they conducted raids at the premises, warehouses and farmhouses, related to the two businessmen. It took them over 11 hours to count the money seized at a local SBI branch, said an officer.
Besides Jalna, the department also raided properties linked to the two businessmen in Aurangabad, Nashik and Mumbai between August 3 and 9, it said in a statement.
The elaborate ruse was worth it. In all, the officers ended up seizing Rs 56 crore in unaccounted cash as well as gold and jewellery worth Rs 14 crore, along with incriminating documents, the statement said.
According to the I-T department, the two businessmen evaded tax of over Rs 120 crore.
The stash of cash and jewellery was kept in more than 30 accounts of a cooperative bank and inside an undisclosed chamber of a farmhouse.
A press release issued by the department said, “The Income-Tax department carried out a search operation on 03.08.2022 on two major groups engaged in the manufacturing of steel TMT Bars. The search operation covered more than 30 premises spread over Jalna, Aurangabad, Nashik and Mumbai. During the search operation, several incriminating evidences have been seized.”
“The initial analysis of seized evidences of both the groups has revealed that they were engaged in large scale tax evasion, resorting to inflation of expenditure through bogus purchases from several entities. These entities have also been found to be involved in GST frauds. Evidence has also been found of excess stock of raw materials, not recorded in the books of account, exceeding Rs 120 crore.”
An officer said on examination of evidence related to one of the businessmen, it was further revealed that the group has indulged in layering its unaccounted income through bogus unsecured loans and share premium, obtained from Kolkata-based shell companies.
“The search team has also detected a large number of lockers of both the groups, opened in the names of employees of the companies, which were maintained with a co-operative bank. During the raid, over 30 bank lockers, including several lockers in the co-operative bank, were searched. Huge unaccounted cash and gold jewellery have been seized from these lockers,” the officer added.