CHANDIGARH – The “flop show” of the much-hyped Income Tax search operation carried out on UP liquor baron and real estate magnate Ponty Chadha’s premises has I-T officials suspect that that the politically-connected businessman could have been tipped off about the raid.
Contrary to reports based on purported “sources” in the I-T department, the search-and-seizure operation at Chadha’s business and residential premises yielded nothing substantial, adding to the sense of bafflement coupled with the timing of the operation – just a day before the first phase of UP polls.
Sources said that the raid on the premises of Chadha, known for his contacts across the political spectrum and for the favours allegedly secured from the BSP government and its predecessors in UP, was okayed by the Member Investigation in the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) on the basis of specific intelligence about the controversial businessman keeping a pile of Rs 100 crore in a chest in his office. The office is located in a shopping mall owned by him in Noida.
The multi-layered chest, which was opened amid considerable excitement, was found to be devoid of cash.
Post-“raids”, CBDT, which did not deny the reports about the huge cash haul from Chadha, has said it was examining bundles of documents seized from his business premises. It claims to have seized Rs 2 crore in cash and jewellery worth Rs 5 crore – a paltry amount considering that he has a business turnover of more than Rs 5,000 crore, and that he, being in liquor business, is expected to be flush with cash at any point.
But even as the fizzle is being blamed on “leak”, many in political circles feel that Chadha did not need an insider to be alerted about I-T department’s interest in him. The run-up to the assembly polls saw I-T department seizing cash from different parts of UP: a warning loud enough for anybody not to keep Rs 100 crore at home or in office.
The fiasco has triggered a blame game within the department, with some senior officials attributing it to vested interests to discredit the freshly-constituted Directorate of Criminal Investigation (DCI), which carried out the raid. According to them, the DCI was skeptical about the “intelligence” about the alleged cash trove at Chadha’s premises and wanted to check its veracity but was goaded into conducting the raid.