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MUMBAI: The investigation wing of the income tax (I-T) department raided 20 premises of Sula Vineyards, its director Rajeev Samant, and companies associated with him in Mumbai and Nashik over the weekend.
Sula, which owns a winery and vineyards in the Nashik region, is also a leading importer of wines and spirits. Sources said the raids were linked to information revealed in the ‘Panama Papers’. When contacted by TOI, Samant said, “We have no connection with Panama or any other papers and have no comment.”
The ‘Panama Papers’ are files leaked from the database of one of the world’s largest offshore law firms, Mossack Fonseca, which helped manage undeclared assets of the world’s rich by parking them in offshore tax havens.
I-T officials claimed on Monday they had collected documents and electronic evidence from Samant’s companies to compare them with details gleaned from the ‘Panama Papers’ in order to verify if there are any connections or irregularities.
I-T also said it found documents showing the company had deposited Rs 1.5 crore in demonetised currency, transactions which government agencies were in the process of verifying.
The raids started on Friday and ended on Sunday. The properties raided included an office for Samant’s maritime business and his residential premises.
I-T sources said during the raids on Samant’s companies, they also collected documents indicating suspected misuse of the Tonnage Tax Scheme meant for maritime businesses. They are inquiring about it and recording statements.
Cash deposits in Sula Vineyards’ accounts first came to the notice of the ED in connection with a case they were investigating against senior NCP member Chhagan Bhujbal.
The agency recorded Samant’s statement but found nothing to connect the cash transaction with the case. The ED accepted Samant’s explanation that the cash was meant to pay grape farmers