Mumbai-based family together declared Rs2 trillion , more than Mukesh Ambaniâ€™s $21 bn of wealth , but the income tax department is not buying that claim
Mumbai, December 7, 2016:Â A family of four Indians told the government it had evaded tax on $29 billion of income. That fortune would make them wealthier than the nationâ€™s richest man.
The Mumbai-based family including the patriarch, his wife, son and sister together declared Rs2 trillion â€” more than Mukesh Ambaniâ€™s $21 billion of wealth â€” during a government program offering amnesty on undisclosed income, the ministry of finance said in a statement on Sunday. Another man from Prime Minister Narendra Modiâ€™s home state of Gujarat revealed Rs13,860 crore of illegal income, locally known as black money. Both the declarations were rejected, the ministry said.
â€œAfter due inquiry, it was found that these were persons of suspicious nature and very small means and the declarations could have been misused,â€ according to the statement. The department has since started a probe â€œto determine the intention behind these false declarations.â€
Modi, who is attempting to fulfill his election pledge of unearthing black money, in September offered tax evaders an amnesty in exchange for a one-time levy of 45% on their income. That program led to a disclosure of Rs67,380 crore of illegal income excluding the two cases rejected by the finance ministry. While the government didnâ€™t elaborate on why it found the transactions suspicious, analysts said these may be cases where several individuals used the people to launder cash.
Mumbaiâ€™s Sayed family gave their address in an affluent Mumbai suburb, but older information with the tax authorities showed three of the four lived in the city of Ajmer, in the Indian state of Rajasthan, and their address had only been changed in September, according to the finance ministryâ€™s statement.
The two-storey building on a busy shop-lined street in Mumbai looks nothing like the home of what would be one of Indiaâ€™s richest men â€” and a far cry from Ambaniâ€™s 27-storey residence. The Sayed family name doesnâ€™t appear on a board listing 12 flat owners. Stores selling bed linen by Bombay Dyeing & Manufacturing Co. and suitcases from Samsonite International SA flank the ground floor entrance and a Honda City and Ford EcoSport compact SUV were parked in the driveway Monday morning.
â€˜Drugs, diamonds or Dawood?â€™
Mahesh Shah, from Ahmedabad in Gujarat, was questioned by tax officials on Sunday, NDTV reported citing a tax official. Shah had earlier told a local language TV channel that the money wasnâ€™t his and that he disclosed it on behalf of various politicians, bureaucrats and builders for a fee, NDTV reported.
While both Rajasthan and Gujarat are home to populations known for their entrepreneurial spirit and cash-based businesses, they also share a border with Indiaâ€™s arch rival Pakistan. India has long accused terror groups based in Pakistan of using counterfeit or smuggled Indian currency to foment violence across the border.
Several Indian commentators found the Rs2 trillion declaration incredulous.
â€œWow!!! Drugs, Dawood or diamonds?â€ tweeted Samir Saran, vice president at the New Delhi-based Observer Research Foundation, referring to Dawood Ibrahim, an Indian mafia boss India accuses Pakistan of harbouring. â€œOr all of the above?â€