Three members of the family of Election Commissioner Ashok Lavasa are under the scanner of the Income Tax. Not only was his wife Novel Singhal Lavasa, an ex-banker and director in several firms, sent an I-T notice in August, his sister Shakuntala Lavasa, a paediatrician, too received a notice the same month.
The tax department also surveyed the books of accounts of Nourish Organic Foods Ltd, a company in which his son Abir Lavasa is a director and holds 10,000 shares as part of an employee stock option plan last financial year.
When contacted, Abir Lavasa said, “A notice, directed to Nourish Organic, was issued by the I-T department. A survey was conducted into the company’s books of accounts in August first week. The department has not sent anything since then.” An Income Tax officer said Abir has sought adjournments and not replied to the department.
Incidentally, Ashok Lavasa, one of the three commissioners in the Election Commission, had on five occasions opposed the clean chit given by the Commission to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and former BJP president Amit Shah on charges of violating the Model Code of Conduct during the campaign for the Lok Sabha elections.
House to organic foods company
The tax department also questioned Rupali Buildwell Private Ltd, a builder firm, that constructed a four-storeyed building in Gurgaon, co-owned by Ashok Lavasa and his wife Novel. Tax officials visited the builder’s office and residence in Gurgaon. “I don’t want to comment on this,” said Satya Priya Tyagi, the company’s director, in a text message. Kavita Tyagi, his wife, said the I-T officials visited their residence on August 22.
The department has assessed the value of the building at Rs 7.2 crore based on the sale of one apartment to Shakuntala Lavasa at Rs 1.86 crore in 2017-18. It is of the view that this investment needed “further probe”. Its initial probe found Ashok Lavasa owned four properties — three in Gurgaon and one in Noida — as on date.
On the issue of notices served by the tax department, both Ashok and Shakuntala Lavasa refused to comment. Nourish Organic Foods, in which Abir is a director since November 14, 2017, received Rs 7.25 crore from Mauritius-based India-focused early stage investor, Saama Capital in March 2019. RoC records show it was allotted 50,000 shares at Rs 1,500 a piece on March 29, 2019. At this price, Abir’s shareholding will be valued at Rs 1.5 crore.
Saama Capital has invested in a number of start-ups in India including Paytm, ChaiPoint, Vistaar (NBFC), Snapdeal and SKS Microfinance.
RoC documents show Nourish Organic was promoted by Seema Jindal Jajodia, wife of Sandeep Jajodia, Chairman and Managing Director, Monnet Group, and daughter of the late O P Jindal. It earned a profit of Rs 16.86 lakhs on total revenue of Rs 5.33 crore in 2017-18. The previous year, it reported a loss of Rs 24.4 lakh on revenues of Rs 3.4 crore.
The tax department has concluded that the “effective management” of Nourish Organics vests with Abir, given that Seema Jajodia resigned two months after he became director in November 2017. Another director, Naresh Kumar, resigned the same day Abir joined.
Further, it has listed a couple of transactions linked to the company as “suspicious”. These include a share premium of Rs 4 crore received in 2008-09 and also a loan from an entry operator in Kolkata and acquisition of shares by Bonita Traders Pvt Ltd in 2010. But both these transactions happened years before Abir became a director in the firm.
The Indian Express reported Tuesday that the I-T department had issued a tax notice to Novel Singhal Lavasa. The department has found that Ashok Lavasa himself has shown receipts of Rs 20.02 lakh from a company Vibrant Trade Avenues Ltd, in which his wife was a director. In a statement issued Monday, she said she had paid all taxes due and disclosed all income earned from pension, and all other sources as per the law.