Over Rs.350 crore recovered in I-T raids; “highest-ever” black money seizure by any agency in a single operation

I-T Raid Bolangir Dheeraj Sahu

In what appears to be a scene straight out from Ajay Devgan’s movie ‘Raid’, the I-T dept raided the country liquor businesses premises linked to Congress MP Dheeraj Sahu from Jharkhand, the last such big recovery was made in Kanpur in 2019 that accounted to Rs.257 crore.

The raids being carried out by the Income Tax department on properties linked to Congress Rajya Sabha MP Dheeraj Sahu entered day 6 on Monday.  

Initially, the IT personnel conducted a raid on Boudh Distillery Private Limited (BDPL) on December 6 based on accusations of tax evasion. Subsequently, they carried out searches at the premises of Baldeo Sahu and Group of Companies, claiming to have unearthed 156 bags of cash.

Subsequently, simultaneous raids were conducted in Titlagarh, Sambalpur, Sundargarh, and Bhubaneswar in Odisha and in a few places in Jharkhand, said official sources. Properties linked to some liquor traders were also searched in Rourkela and Rayagada.

The I-T department uncovered 176 bags full of cash as reported till Monday, amounting to over Rs.350 crore of black money. The amount was so huge that it took fifty officials from three banks and forty machines to be deployed in the counting process.

Congress MP Dheeraj Sahu’s extended family is reportedly involved in a major alcohol manufacturing business. Most of the cash recovered from was linked to Boudh Distillery Private Limited in Odisha. The I-T department recorded the statements of various company officials as well as others in connection with the case. The IT department is now recording the statements of the executives and other staff who were present at the searched locations. Soon it will issue summonses to the main promoters of the company for recording their statements.

Congress distances itself, and calls it out a conspiracy:

Meanwhile, the Congress party has said that it has no connection with Sahu’s businesses. “The Indian National Congress is in no way connected with the businesses of Dheeraj Sahu, MP. Only he can explain and should explain, how huge amounts of cash have been reportedly unearthed by the income-tax authorities from his properties,” AICC general secretary Communications Jairam Ramesh said in a post on X.

Jharkhand Congress in-charge Avinash Pandey said, “The party has a clear-cut stand that it is a private matter of Dheeraj Sahu, which has nothing to do with the Congress party.”

He also said, “The family has had a business establishment for more than 100 years here and it is the joint business of the family. Dheeraj Sahu is just a part of the business. But, Sahu should clarify how such a big amount came to him,” Pandey said.

Speaking at Congress headquarters, Pandey alleged that a conspiracy is being carried out to defame the opposition parties in the country.

“Since the day a majority alliance government came to power in Jharkhand, BJP has been hatching a conspiracy to destabilize it. This is not only in Jharkhand but the conspiracy is being done against all non-BJP governments elected through democratic process in the country under ‘Operation Lotus’. BJP is doing it openly without caring about any constitutional values,” he said.

BJP launches Corruption Offensive against Congress:

The BJP launched an all-out attack on the Congress over the recovery, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi leading the party’s charge against the Congress. On X, the PM wrote: “The people of the country should look at these piles of currency 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.”

The Jharkhand BJP also alleged that over Rs 300 crore cash recovered from the raid was intended for horse-trading and ‘resort politics’. 

Taking a jibe, BJP’s IT Cell chief Amit Malviya shared Mr Sahu’s post against corruption from August 12, 2022, read: “Even after demonetization, my heart is saddened to see so much black money and corruption in the country. I don’t understand why people are accumulating so much black money. If anyone can root out corruption from this country, it is only the Congress.”

Sharing a screenshot of the post on X, Amit Malviya wrote Mr. Sahu has a “dark sense of humor” with the hashtag “corruption ki dukaan”.

Union Minister Smriti Irani questioned the Congress and said that the Gandhi family must reveal the name of the leader for whom the Rajya Sabha MP was working as an “ATM”.

“Imagine how much one Congress MP has looted that it takes almost an army of personnel to count the loot. Now multiply it with Congress’ 60 years of power & 1000s of MPs. It runs into tens of thousands of crores. Congress is corruption ki beemari! The disease of corruption,” BJP national spokesperson Shehzad Poonawala said.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah said that now he understands why opposition parties were attacking the Modi government for the misuse of investigation agencies. “It can be now understood as to why the allegation against the Modi government that it is misusing investigation agencies was made. It was because of the fear that their corruption will be exposed,” Amit Shah said. The BJP’s Odisha unit has demanded a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation and sought clarification from the ruling BJD. Party spokesperson Manoj Mohapatra showed photos of a woman minister from the state sharing the stage with one of the liquor traders covered in the raids. This tax evasion could not have been possible without the active support and patronage of local leaders and the state government, he said.

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Who is Dheeraj Sahu?

Dheeraj Sahu a 64-year-old Congress Rajya Sabha MP from Jharkhand, country liquor baron and Congress three-term MP from Jharkhand. He is the son of industrialist and social worker Baldeo Sahu who, he maintains, was also involved in the Independence struggle.

Commencing his political journey in 1977 with the Congress, he served as a member of the National Students Union of India from 1978 to 1983. Progressing through the party ranks, he initially held a position in the Lohardaga district and later in the Jharkhand Pradesh Congress Committee.

He was first elected to the Rajya Sabha in a 2009 bypoll, and re-elected for his second term in 2010. He became a Rajya Sabha member for the third time in May 2018. He has also been associated with various parliamentary committees and continues to be a member of the Consultative Committee on Power and New and Renewable Energy, and a member of the Committee on Coal, Mines and Steel. Sources, including in the Congress, say Sahu is close to top leaders in the BJD and the Congress.

Previous instances of unaccounted money by Dheeraj Sahu:

Mr. Sahu has faced trouble on previous occasions also. Following his third term as a Rajya Sabha member in May 2018, he gained attention in December 2019 when approximately ₹30 lakh in cash was discovered in his bag at Ranchi airport as he was en route to Delhi.

The Sahu family also came into the limelight for the second time during the 2019 Lok Sabha elections when Mr. Dheeraj Sahu’s brother Gopal Sahu contested against BJP candidate Jayant Sinha in Hazaribagh.

Mr. Gopal Sahu had opened the camp office at Hazaribagh’s Hotel A.K and there was a raid during that time also and around ₹22 lakh was recovered from his office.

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