New Delhi: Three days after carrying out “surveys” at Sonu Sood’s several premises, the Income Tax department accused the Bollywood actor of evading taxes of over ₹ 20 crore, read the I-T department’s statement on Saturday.
Notably, the I-T survey comes soon after the 48-year-old actor became the brand ambassador of the Delhi government’s mentorship programme after receiving national and humanitarian acclaim for helping people during the coronavirus pandemic. Starting with providing busses for the migrant workers in 2020, the Bollywood actor ensured oxygen supply during the peak of the second wave of the pandemic. Sonu was hailed as a real-life hero and was conferred with a special humanitarian action award by the United National Development Programme.
While, many are linking the tax searches to the actor’s meet with the AAP party, the tax department said Mr Sood’s non-profit also raised ₹ 2.1 crore from overseas donors using a crowdfunding platform in violation of the law – Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act – that governs such transactions.
“During the course of search at the premises of the actor and his associates, incriminating evidences pertaining to tax evasion have been found. The main modus operandi followed by the actor had been to route his unaccounted income in the form of bogus unsecured loans from many bogus entities,” the tax department said in the statement.
“Investigations so far have revealed use of 20 such entries, the providers of which, on examination, have accepted on oath to have given bogus accommodation entries. They have accepted to have issued cheques in lieu of cash. There have been instances where professional receipts have been camouflaged as loans in the books of accounts for the purpose of evasion of tax. It has also been revealed that these bogus loans have been used for making investments and acquiring properties. The total amount of tax evaded unearthed so far, amounts to more than ₹ 20 crore,” the tax department said.
According to the allegations against the actor, whose philanthropic efforts for those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic have earned huge praise, his non-profit Sood Charity Foundation set up in July last year during the Covid first wave collected donations of over ₹ 18 crore till April this year, out of which ₹ 1.9 crore has been spent on relief work and the balance ₹ 17 crore has been lying unused in the non-profit’s bank account.
Sources have said “a recent deal between Sonu Sood’s company and a Lucknow-based real estate firm is under the scanner”, and the survey operation began on allegations of tax evasion on this deal.
“The simultaneous search operations carried out at various premises of an infrastructure group in Lucknow in which the actor has entered into a joint venture real estate project and invested substantial funds, have resulted in unearthing of incriminating evidences pertaining to tax evasion and irregularities in the books of account,” the tax department said in the statement today.
It alleged the Lucknow group is involved in bogus billing of subcontracting expenses and diverting funds. “Evidences of such bogus contracts found so far are to the tune of over ₹ 65 crore… Further investigations are being carried out to establish the full extent of tax evasion. Cash of ₹ 1.8 crore has been seized during the course of the search,” the tax department said.
The ruling Shiv Sena in Maharashtra and the Aam Aadmi Party have questioned the timing of the searches at Sonu Sood’s home. The BJP has said there is no link between Mr Sood’s tie-up with AAP and the searches.