Income Tax sleuths today swooped down on 64 properties linked to Karnataka minister D K Shivakumar, who was overseeing the stay of 44 Congress MLAs from Gujarat at a resort near Bengaluru, setting off a political storm ahead of the Rajya Sabha polls. An I-Tdepartment official said that over Rs 10 crore cash was recovered during the raids in Karnataka and Delhi in connection with a case of alleged tax evasion involving Shivakumar, a senior Congress leader and the state Energy minister.
A "good amount" of jewellery has also been recovered from a teacher's locker in a college in Bengaluru, the official said, claiming the locker is in the name of a relative of Shivakumar.
The searches had its echo in Parliament where protesting Congress members disrupted the proceedings and questioned its timing even as Finance Minister Arun Jaitley insisted that the action had no connection with the upcoming Rajya Sabha polls in Gujarat.
Ahmed Patel, political secretary to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, is one of the candidates and is facing a tough battle. Polls for 10 Rajya Sabha seats from Gujarat, West Bengal and Madhya Pradesh are due to be held on August 8.
Patel accused the BJP of indulging in an "unprecedented witch-hunt" to win one Rajya Sabha seat.
The I-T Department said the timing of the search was decided well in advance.
About half-a-dozen note-counting machines have also been brought at two locations in Safdarjung Enclave in Delhi and in Hasan and Mysuru in Karnataka to count the cash.
While about Rs 7.9 crore cash has been recovered from Delhi, about Rs 2.23 crore has been found at locations in the southern state, the official said.
The official said the department is investigating Shivakumar in a case of alleged tax evasion and huge undisclosed investments in real estate and other sectors.
Certain investments linked to him in Singapore and few other foreign locations are also under the scanner of the department, the official said.
Some shell firms and their operatives allegedly linked to this case are also being probed, the official added.
The official said the I-T sleuths reached the Eagleton resort near Bengaluru to question the minister, who was staying there overnight after arriving late in the night to the Karnataka capital from Delhi.
The official said the department has prepared a 'panchnama' into the incident where the minister was allegedly found "tearing" pages of some loose paper sheets, when the taxmen came calling at the resort.
"The torn sheet, restored partially, is now being analysed," the official said.
Shivakumar, who was in-charge of the 44 MLAs lodged there to prevent the BJP from alleged efforts to "poach" them, was at the resort when the search took place, the official said. He was taken to his house in Bengaluru from the resort by the tax sleuths early today.
The official said a total of 39 premises of Shivakumar and his family are being raided by a team of about 120 personnel from the department with the aid of central paramilitary forces.
Twenty five other locations and premises are being a surveyed under certain sections of the Income Tax Act.
As the raids on the resort triggered angry reactions from the Congress, the I-T department said the resort is not being raided.
It said only the minister's room at the resort was "searched" and not of the MLAs from Gujarat.
"The search team has no concern with the MLAs and there has been no contact with MLAs and the search team," the department said in a statement.
"The events involving certain MLAs of another state being brought to Karnataka were unforeseen and unpredictable events," it said.
"The search under Section 132 of the Income Tax Act is an evidence gathering exercise which is being carried in compliance with all statutory requirements. The search is the continuation of an investigation which has been in progress for a considerable period of time," it added.
The Congress legislators have been camping at the resort since Saturday last after the party flew them in here to fend off alleged "poaching" attempts by the BJP ahead of the August 8 Rajya Sabha polls in Gujarat.
Jaitley said the raids "should not be linked to the Rajya Sabha election in Gujarat" as was alleged by Congress members.
As soon as Rajya Sabha met for the day, Congress leader Anand Sharma raised the issue, alleging that an attempt was being made to "derail and hijack" the elections to the Council of States (Rajya Sabha) and the raids were "targetted".
"Since morning they (IT) have started the raids," Sharma said and questioned the timing and place of the raids.
Union minister Prakash Javadekar dismissed Congress' allegations of a "vendetta" and said the IT searches were aimed at tracking tax evaders.