I-T raids on Odisha-based distillery unearth ₹300cr, and counting; Cong MP under lens | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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I-T raids on Odisha-based distillery unearth 300cr, and counting; Cong MP under lens

ByDebabrata Mohanty,
Dec 09, 2023 07:42 AM IST

At least ₹300 crore in cash was recovered by the Income Tax (I-T) department during raids in three states across locations linked to an Odisha-based distillery group, officials said on Friday

Bhubaneshwar/Ranchi: At least 300 crore in cash was recovered by the Income Tax (I-T) department during raids in three states across locations linked to an Odisha-based distillery group, officials said on Friday, as the seizures sparked a political row and led Prime Minister Narendra Modi to attack the Opposition over corruption.

The Income Tax department raided several locations linked to an Odisha-based distillery group across three states from Wednesday, and are likely to continue on Saturday. (PTI)
The Income Tax department raided several locations linked to an Odisha-based distillery group across three states from Wednesday, and are likely to continue on Saturday. (PTI)

The raids at premises linked to Boudh Distillery Private Limited, which is based in Odisha’s Boudh district, began in the state, Jharkhand and West Bengal on Wednesday and went on till Friday. The searches are likely to continue on Saturday and the amount of money seized is also likely to increase as counting is still underway, the officials said.

The company is linked to Congress Rajya Sabha MP from Jharkhand, Dheeraj Sahu, the I-T officials said. While Dheeraj’s son Ritesh Sahu is the managing director, his elder brother Uday Shanker Prasad is the chairman of the company that manufactures extra neutral alcohol – a primary raw material for making alcoholic beverages.

Officials said Boudh Distillery Private Limited is also a partnership firm of Baldeo Sahu & Group of Companies (based out of Boudh) that is accused of tax evasion, and was also raided by the taxmen.

Dheeraj Sahu, whose premises in Ranchi were also raided, did not respond to calls or messages for a comment on the matter. Both Boudh Distillery Private Limited and Baldeo Sahu & Group of Companies are yet to comment on the matter.

As the BJP accused the Congress of corruption, the grand old party alleged a conspiracy by the former.

A senior I-T official, who did not wish to be identified, said Boudh Distillery Private Limited also manufactured country liquor and a substantial number of the sales was not accounted for by the company.

“We had suspicions over the company’s inconsistent and low net profits between 2019 and 2021 and an inflated expense in its balance sheet,” the official said.

Speaking about the raids, the official said 156 bags of cash were recovered by taxmen across the three states on Friday alone.

“Cash stashed in almirahs was recovered in Sudapada area of Balangir town in Odisha. They were also found in other locations such as Sambalpur and Sundargarh districts in Odisha, Bokaro and Ranchi in Jharkhand and Kolkata. On Friday, more money was recovered from the office premises of Baldeo Sahu Infra Private Limited, a group company in Bhubaneswar,” the official said.

“At least 300 crore in cash has been seized across the three states so far. A majority of them were recovered in Odisha. The amount is likely to increase as counting is still underway,” the official added.

Officials said three dozen counting machines have been deployed by the tax department. Since the machines are of a limited capacity, the counting is progressing at a slow pace, they said.

“Some of the notes are covered with mildew since those were stored for a long time. The machines are finding it difficult to count such notes. We have employed all our counting machines and our staff are working overtime to count,” Manmohan Swain, deputy general manager of State Bank of India (Balangir town), which has been roped in to count the seized cash, said.

A local resident claimed huge quantities of the now-banned 500 denominations were found torn and dumped near the boundary wall of Boudh Distillery Private Limited, in Ramvikata village, in Boudh.

“All the notes were found torn from the middle. It appears that someone tried to dispose of what seemed to be unaccounted money,” the resident said.

The raids and seizures triggered a political row as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) alleged that the money belonged to the Congress and its allies.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi took a swipe at the opposition party and said the money looted from the public will have to be returned.

“The countrymen should look at the pile of these notes and then listen to the honest ‘speeches’ of their leaders… Whatever has been looted from the public, every penny will have to be returned, this is Modi’s guarantee,” he said in a post on X in Hindi.

In Delhi, Union minister Anurag Thakur said the seizures show the Congress indulges in corrupt activities.

“The biggest question is why does Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi always speak against demonetisation? In Jharkhand, 200 crore has been recovered from Congress MLA Dheeraj Sahu’s… wherever there is Congress, there is corruption… that is why, the Congress keeps questioning the Enforcement Directorate and Central Bureau of Investigation,” Thakur said.

Jharkhand BJP chief Babulal Marandi demanded Dheeraj Sahu’s arrest. He alleged the trail of the recovered money would reach the door of Jharkhand chief minister and Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) leader Hemant Soren. The JMM, which is an ally of the Congress in Jharkhand, said it will respond to the allegation on Saturday.

“As per latest information, around 300 crore has been recovered. This is historical as we haven’t seen such huge recoveries in recent memory. This money is not just of Dheeraj Sahu, but of other senior Congress leaders and their alliance partners. There have been reports in the past that money was shifted to other states from Jharkhand in vehicles and even in ambulances. Therefore, I demand an FIR against Sahu and he be questioned,” Marandi said.

The Congress refuted allegations that the money belonged to its party leaders and alleged a conspiracy by the BJP.

“The raids, as per media reports, are still on. The I-T department has not said anything on record. Then how come the BJP leaders know how much money has been recovered. It shows who is behind such conspiracies,” Jharkhand Congress spokesperson Rakesh Sinha said.

Odisha Congress chief Sarat Pattnaik said action must be taken against anyone found indulging in wrong doings. “I have nothing more to say. As you sow, so you reap,” he Pattnaik.

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