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Thursday, July 29, 2021

Shell firm director who sold flat to Ajoy Mehta linked to group in ED probe

Nikhil Ketan Gokhale is on the board of at least seven entities promoted by Pune-based businessman Avinash Bhosale of ABIL Group, who is being probed by the ED under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.

Written by Khushboo Narayan | Mumbai |
Updated: July 22, 2021 6:56:40 am
Records show that Nikhil Ketan Gokhale filed for permission to sell the 1076-sq-ft apartment at Samata Cooperative Housing Society, Nariman Point, to Mehta for Rs 5.33 crore. (File Photo)

Maharashtra Real Estate Regulatory Authority (Maha RERA) Chairman Ajoy Mehta’s Nariman Point apartment — which has come under the Income Tax (I-T) scanner for alleged benami transactions — was sold to him by Nikhil Ketan Gokhale, director of Anamitra Properties Pvt Ltd, official records show.

Gokhale is on the board of at least seven entities promoted by Pune-based businessman Avinash Bhosale of ABIL Group, who is being probed by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) in a case pertaining to the purchase and construction of a commercial building in Pune on a plot meant for houses for bureaucrats.

According to the Registrar of Companies (RoC) records of December 2020, Gokhale was appointed as a director of Anamitra Properties in October 2008. He has given (an) ABIL Group email address in company records.

When contacted, Gokhale denied any association with Anamitra Properties. “I have nothing to do with Anamitra Properties so I cannot respond to any questions on the tax notice,” Gokhale told The Indian Express.

Incidentally, Bhosale is being probed by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) over a transaction pertaining to the purchase and construction of a commercial building in Pune on a plot meant for the construction of houses for bureaucrats.

Last month, the ED had seized assets worth over Rs 40 crore belonging to Bhosale and his family members in a separate investigation under the Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999 (FEMA).

When contacted, an official of ABIL said that Bhosale is “currently out of station and unavailable for comment.”

Records show Gokhale filed for permission to sell the 1076-sq-ft apartment at Samata Cooperative Housing Society, Nariman Point, to Mehta for Rs 5.33 crore. On October 1, 2020, the permission order was issued by Mumbai City Collector Rajiv Nivatkar stating that a sum of Rs 16,80,400 had to be paid as per rules for the transfer. The order was also copied to the secretary of Samata Cooperative Housing Society.

The Samata Cooperative Housing Society was allotted the plot at a concessional rate by the government. The flat bought by Mehta was originally allotted to Justice Sharad Manohar on April 11, 1986. Records show the flat was transferred from Justice Sharad Manohar to his son, Ashish Manohar, on September 2, 2001, and later to Gokhale on June 25, 2009. Gokhale then sold it to Mehta in October 2020 for Rs 5.33 crore.

On July 7, the tax department issued a showcause notice to Anamitra Properties, an alleged “shell entity made only for the purpose of holding benami properties”. The notice said the transaction that led to its acquisition of the apartment for Rs 4 crore in 2009 was “benami” as its two listed shareholders are “people of low means”. Both have “denied their knowledge of ownership” (of Anamitra Properties), the notice said.

In its notice, the tax department said one of the shareholders of Anamitra Properties, Kamesh Nathuni Singh, who holds 99 per cent stake in the company, lives in a chawl in the western suburbs of Mumbai. The second shareholder, Dipesh Ravindra Singh, has shown an income of only Rs 1.71 lakh in his sole tax returns for assessment year 2020-21. The notice does not name Gokhale.

The tax notice said the names of the two shareholders of the company had been “used by some unknown beneficial and real owners” to buy the apartment.

The I-T department has provisionally attached the flat under the Prevention of Benami Property Transaction Act (PBPT). This essentially means that Mehta cannot create third party rights till the attachment is lifted.

When contacted, Mehta, a 1984-batch IAS officer who was earlier Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray’s principal advisor and also served as Maharashtra Chief Secretary, told The Indian Express on Tuesday: “It was a proper legal deal following due procedures and I have made the payment as per the prevalent market price. I am a taxpayer and I don’t know where this is coming from.”

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