Retired income tax official and vice-president of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Surat unit, PVS Sarma, on Thursday sat in protest on the road outside his house in Piplod area of Surat after the income tax (I-T) department conducted searches on his premises as well as premises linked to him in Surat, Thane and Mumbai.
The searches were held three days after he tweeted about transactions by a jewellery brand on the night when demonetisation was announced in 2016, allegedly evading tax. I-T officials said they conducted the searches after Sarma did not give satisfactory replies to a summon issued to him on October 1 over his “disproportionate assets”.
Sarma, 57, who was senior income tax officer for 18 years since 1990 had taken VRS from in 2007 to join the BJP is also in charge of the party’s information technology (IT) cell. He was also director (finance and taxation) on the board of several companies in Surat and also runs a vernacular daily in the city.
Sarma who sat in protest for a few hours on Thursday told The Indian Express, “I dug out a scam and now I am being victimised… I-T officials have been raiding my house since Wednesday night.”
On October 19, Sharma had tweeted: “Hon’ble PM shri @narendramodi ji, This is how idea of #Demonetisation defeated by the corrupt. Cash deposit is Rs 110 cr, income Rs 0.84 cr & tax Rs 0.80 cr IT(Inv) wing closed eyes & Settlement Commission accepted illogical arguments & caused huge revenue loss (sic).” He had tagged Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Finance Minister’s official handle on this tweet referring to the jewellery brand. Sarma also attached a purported communication to the jewellery firm M/s Kalamandir Jewellers Pvt Ltd from the Settlement Commission.
Hon’ble PM shri @narendramodi ji, This is how idea of #Demonetisation defeated by the corrupt.
Cash deposit is ₹110 cr, income ₹0.84 cr & tax ₹0.80 cr.
IT(Inv)wing closed eyes & Settlement Commission accepted illogical arguments&caused huge revenue loss.@PMOIndia @FinMinIndia pic.twitter.com/VWkkuXQlvt
— pvs sarma (@pvssarma) October 19, 2020
Speaking to media persons on Thursday, Sarma said, “The motive behind demonetisation was to bring out the black money, which could be used for the development of the country. The documents I attached and tweeted clearly show that jewellery worth Rs 110 crore was sold by the jewellery firm in Surat. The scam was done with the connivance of I-T officials and middlemen. I demanded a fair investigation by the CBI and ED officials to bring out the truth.”
Teams from Vadodara, Surat and Ahmedabad I-T departments are learnt to have participated in the searches at Sarma’s house. Over 70 I-T officials conducted the searches at 15 different locations in Surat, Mumbai and Thane.
“The searches began at 10.15 pm on Wednesday and continued on Thursday. We have not finished yet. We had specific information that he was owning a number of properties and shell companies,” said a senior I-T official who said that the department conducted the searches after Sarma failed to provide satisfactory reply to the summons issued to him on October 1 over his “disproportionate assets”.
While 10 premises belonging to Sarma and his associates were searched in Surat, similar searches were conducted at five locations in Thane and Mumbai. The department also searched the premises of Sarma’s chartered accountant and the offices of the companies where he was the director.
“Sarma shows himself as an employee of Kusum Silicon Pvt Ltd in Mumbai. He has taken a salary and commission of Rs 90 lakh from this firm in six years. Three premises of this company were searched in Mumbai,” said the officials.
The I-T officials also searched the office of the vernacular daily, Satyam Times, run by Sarma in Surat. Officials said Rs 40 lakh in cash was recovered from one of the locations searched in Surat. “A person tried to flee with the bag of cash,” the official said adding Sarma’s mobile phone was confiscated as “evidence” and will be returned after a data back-up.
Director Kalamandir Jewellery, Milan Shah, told The Indian Express, “Sarma’s allegations are baseless and we are ready to cooperate with any investigations. Such an act by a retired income tax officer is unethical and misguides the public. We will take legal action against him and also file a defamation case against him. We will also find out how he obtained the documents. He had tried to meet us but we denied.” Shah’s firm has four jewellery show rooms one each in Surat, Kosamba, Bharuch, and Vapi.
In another tweet on October 20, Sarma said, “As a concerned citizen, a member of Income-tax family & as a social worker, it’s my responsibility to assist, harassed tax payers and officers. Many ‘rotten apples’ have corrupted the system & its my duty to expose them and help bring back transparency espoused by the @PMOIndia (sic).”
Surat city unit president of the BJP, Nitin Bhajiyawala, said, “Nobody is above the law… I have also faced income tax raids in the past. It is nothing new.”
Sarma joined the BJP in 2007 and was elected as municipal councillor from Dumbhal of Surat Municipal Corporation (SMC) in 2010. He was with the executive committee of the BJP in Gujarat between 2012 and 2015, during which he was also a member of the national executive committee of Arts and Culture cell of the party. Sarma has worked closely with BJP leaders, including former state cabinet minister Narottam Patel and state BJP president CR Paatil.
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