Two five-rupee coins and a large silver one thats all Income Tax officials found when they prised open a huge safe in the basement of Noidas Centrestage Mall,owned by Ponty Chadha,recently. Should the liquor and real estate baron have himself scripted the I-T embarrassment over raids on his premises,he couldnt have written a better finale. Or,could he?
Amid talk of a leak from the I-T tipping off Chadha on the raids,sources say the businessman was not just one step ahead but several. For two years now,well before elections in Punjab and Uttar Pradesh where the 51-year-old has high stakes in-house raid parties have been visiting every office and commercial unit of the company.
These parties,including 25 auditors,accountants and marketing executives per group,drop in,scan computers,sift through files and papers,and erase,delete and clean up. The members change every month,so does their target office.
We were expecting the raids for six months, said a key Chadha aide. We knew research on our group was on.
An insider said Ponty or Gurdeep Chadha had learnt his lessons from a 2003 I-T operation against him in Delhi and Lucknow.
While the I-T team was searching his 24-acre Delhi farmhouse and his home in Moradabad earlier this month,Chadha reportedly spent the night at a relatives house in the Capital. On February 15,he brazenly paid a courtesy call to
I-T Member (Investigation) S S Rana. Two days later,the officer,who was overseeing the Chadha operation,was moved out.
Excited TV channels had flashed a figure of over Rs 100 crore as recovery from the Centrestage Mall safe after the raid amid facts that tumbled out was that it was located in a room with collapsible doors to let in vehicles carrying cash.
With the official seizure figure now down to Rs 11 crore in all,company sources tell you its ethos has changed and cheques are the order of the day. Carrying cash is fraught with dangers, said one.