Declared everything in ITRs; I-T raids a clear frame-up: Bahl

Rejecting allegations of claiming bogus tax benefits media baron Raghav Bahl on Friday said all business gains and losses have been duly declared in his tax returns and the raids by the Income Tax Department against him and his companies were a clear frame-up. He also claimed that private contractors were deployed by the tax sleuths to clone digital data during the searches as he raised questions about its privacy. Bahl, the founder of ‘The Quint’ news portal, issued a nine-point clarification on what he called an interrogation by the tax sleuths on Thursday when they searched his office and residential premises in Noida near for gathering evidences as part of their probe against him on tax evasion charges, primarily over claiming fake Long Term Capital Gains (LTCG). All these and other gains/losses were fully detailed/declared in the appropriate year of tax filings and more importantly, were accepted and assessed to tax under this very government, Bahl said. So the attempt to ‘colour’ our tax returns, now, as ‘bogus’, is clearly a frame-up, and we shall take every legal recourse to protect our fair name and reputation in this case, Bahl said. The media entrepreneur said he was making public the facts on various personal and official transactions suo motu as he feared an imminent possibility that more such frame-ups shall be attempted now. Bahl said Rs 3.56 lakh cash and modern and ancestral jewellery worth Rs 33 lakh were recovered by the taxmen during the searches and these were entirely from his 82-year-old mother’s cupboard. All of these assets are duly assessed and declared in past returns. Is it really that surprising that people of that age/generation feel more secure holding such a moderate amount within physical proximity?, he said. Bahl added his family purchased a flat in London from the legally permitted LRS remittances and all of this has been fully declared in their income tax filings. He claimed the raids went on for about 23 incessant hours and nearly 500 journalists and other professionals of the Quintillion Media Group were held to the most intrusive ransom by India’s tax officers. In his statement, Bahl said questions were asked to them by the income tax department team about their transactions with Reliance Industries Limited, a joint venture with Viacom18 group and about BloombergQuint and they promptly shared all documents and past emails. He added that simultaneous surveys were also carried out at their investee companies which he claimed was nothing but a fishing expedition. We reiterate that we are absolutely in the clear, that we shall mount a robust legal defence against every trumped-up charge that is brought against us; that we are making these disclosures to pre-empt further character assassination against us, to thwart attempts through leaks, plants, and trolls, he said in the statement. The income tax officials had said on Thursday that apart from Bahl, three other beneficiaries of the alleged bogus LTCG claims — J Lalwani, Anoop Jain and Abhimanyu — were searched as part of the same action. The LTCG broadly refers to the amount of profit generated by an asset such as real estate, shares or share-oriented products held beyond a particular time period. The tax officials had said the business links of these companies with offshore entities were also being investigated.

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