Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai)
Cong demands CBI probe against city realty firm
MUMBAI: Congress spokesperson and legislator Bhai Jagtap on Tuesday called for an inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into the functioning of a city realty firm, the Lodha Group.
Jagtap, on the basis of an 2011 appraisal report by the Additional Director of Income Tax, circulated to the media at the party’s press conference, alleged that the company had indulged in “round tripping of funds among the group of companies” to disguise the sources and application of unaccounted funds. “The Lodha group has a huge land bank to the tune of Rs 25,000 crore, the investment in this needs to be probed,” he said.
The Lodha Group rubbished these allegations. “The Lodha group is fully compliant with all laws and regulations related to Income Tax. Following certain procedures in January 2011, the Lodha Group has approached the appropriate authority, as specified under law, to bring closure to the issues raised by the Income Tax department,” said an emailed response from the group spokesperson.
The response from the company goes on to say: “The cronies of a South Mumbai Congress leader, who have done nothing for the area and are afraid of facing elections, have been trying to level allegations against Lodha from the last 4 weeks and this is one more politically motivated attempt by them.” Lodha Group founder and chairman Mangal Prabhat Lodha is a Bharatiya Janata Party legislator from Malabar Hill constituency.
“We will write to the Union finance minister and Union home minister to institute a CBI inquiry against the group. This report, annexed with a public interest litigation (PIL) filed in the Bombay high court, has pointed to unaccounted sale of car parking spaces, concealing of income and other irregularities currently being heard by the Income Tax Settlement Commission,” said Jagtap at the Mumbai Congress office.
The Income Tax appraisal report and a settlement commission order of April 2013 have been annexed to a criminal PIL filed before the Bombay High Court by Anil Jain and others and registered on October 1, 2013.
The report, drafted after search and seizure action on the Lodha Group in October 2011, states that the company has not accounted for any receipts from sale of parking spaces in its building complexes. “The money is either collected in cash or by way of cheques in the name of some third party companies…the assessee has already surrendered an amount of Rs107.80 crores on account of unaccounted parking,’’ it said. According to this report, the IT estimate of receipts from unaccounted sale of parking spaces is at Rs150.02 crore.
The Lodha Group spokesperson, however argued that no order had been passed against the firm in this matter in the last 30 months.