By Quaid Najmi
Mumbai, Sep 18 (IANS) In a major revelation, the Income Tax Department on Saturday accused Bollywood actor Sonu Sood of financial irregularities worth over Rs 250 crore by way of unutilised charitable funds, bogus contracts and circular transactions with one of his partner companies, and diverting funds to evade taxes, officials said.
The disclosures came after IT sleuths’ swoop for two days on some 28 premises in Mumbai, Delhi, Lucknow, Jaipur, Kanpur and Gurugram in one of the biggest such investigative actions on any actor or entities linked with him. The operations continue.
In a rare official statement, the Income Tax Department, without naming him, has said that Sood evaded tax worth Rs 20 crore so far, besides listing other alleged wrongdoings emerging in its continuing probe.
An NGO, ‘SOOD Charity Foundation’, launched by the actor in July 2020 collected donations of Rs 18.94 crore till date of which it spent only Rs 1.90 crore towards various relief measures (for migrants), and the rest lies in the bank accounts.
The SOOD Charity Foundation also raised another Rs 2.10 crore from abroad through a crowd-funding platform, violating provisions of the FCRA, said the tax department.
Raids on a Lucknow-based infrastructure company with which Sood had entered into a tie-up for a realty project brought out more financial improprieties.
Detailing them, the IT Department said the group was involved in generating fake bills of subcontracts to siphon off funds worth around Rs 65 crore.
The group has also indulged in dubious circular transactions worth Rs 175 crore with a realty company based out of Jaipur.
The IT Department said it has seized Rs 1.80 crore cash besides sealing 11 bank lockers, with further raids and investigation in progress.
Revealing Sood’s alleged modus operandi, the IT Department said that he routed his ‘black money’ income in the form of bogus unsecured loans from many fake entities.
The probe found at least 20 such entries and the providers have admitted to the ‘bogus accommodation entries’, issuing cheques in lieu of cash, and instances where professional receipts were camouflaged as loans in account books to evade taxes.
These bogus unsecured loans, in turn, were ploughed back for making investments and acquiring properties, said the tax department.
The official revelations signal a huge setback for Sood, who scaled pinnacles of popularity during the Covid-19 pandemic by organising free flights, trains and luxury buses to enable migrants stranded in Maharashtra and other parts of India reach their homes.
For his charities, the ruling Shiv Sena had uncharitably had labelled him as ‘Mahatma Sonu Sood’ who was actually helping the opposition BJP to discredit the Maha Vikas Aghadi government’s good work during the pandemic in Maharashtra.
The actor essayed the role of an antagonist in the global blockbuster “Kung Fu Yoga” (2017), China’s second-highest box-office grosser till date, starring superstar Jackie Chan, Disha Patani and Amyra Dastur.
Hobnobbing with top celebs like Union or state ministers, Governors and Chief Ministers, Sood was the star and co-host of a major international three-part tele-series ‘BharatKeMahaveer’, arising out of a partnership of United Nations in India, NITI Aayog and the Dischovery Channel group.
Incidentally, Sood’s ‘Pravasirojgar’ initiative entered into a joint venture with an Indian company backed by a Singapore-backed group with an initial investment of Rs 250 crore, to provide employment opportunities to Indian youth.
By Quaid Najmi