Lucknow/New Delhi, Feb 1: Income Tax officials today raided a number of premises of Uttar Pradesh-based liquor baron and businessman Ponty Chadha in the state and in Delhi on suspected tax evasion and claimed to have traced a huge currency chest in a big mall owned by him in Noida.
A team of 20 officials armed with counting machines and gas cutters reached the Centrestage Mall in Noida in the outskirts of Delhi to seize cash stored in its basement, top sources in the department said.
However, they declined to hazard any guess on the possible amount that could be there amidst reports that Rs 100 crore has been seized.
As the search teams were not given the keys to the chest, whose contents were not known, the gas cutters were being used to break it open, the sources said.
Searches were conducted in Delhi at 13 locations including at the posh Sainik Farms and Lajpat Nagar, while in UP, IT teams comprising 200 officials, undertook similar operations at six locations in Noida, Moradabad and state capital Lucknow.
Chadha, according to I-T sources, is in Dubai at present in connection with a family function. Neither Chadha nor any of his family members could be contacted for their reactions.
The searches, which began at around 10.30 this morning, were initiated after the department got inputs regarding alleged tax evasion by firms associated with him, the sources said.
The department, according to the sources, were also looking at the possibility of illegal sale of liquor by certain firms in the run up to the UP assembly polls.
I-T sleuths also searched the properties of two of his alleged associates—Lalit Kapoor and Gurjeet Kochhar—in Delhi and is expected to question them about certain transactions.
The searches were conducted by the Delhi-based Criminal Investigation Unit of the department and, according to the sources, the searches were related to the alleged mis-pricing of huge liquor consignments in the state and other places.
They said that the department conducted the operation after gathering intelligence and other inputs about Chadha and his businesses in the last four months.
Chadha, who runs one of the largest liquor businesses in the state with numerous dealerships, also has business interest in cinema and multiplex sectors.
Neither Chadha nor his family members could be reached for comment.