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I-T Conducts Searches at Dainik Bhaskar’s Offices

The income tax department on Thursday searched several offices of this the group that publishes Hindi Newspaper Dainik Bhaskar on suspicion of tax evasion.

The search triggered a political row with opposition leaders, including the chief ministers of several states, calling it “a vender, act” against, the Dainik Bhaskar Group for publishing critical reports about the Modi government’s handling of the second wave of the pandemic. The government rejected the allegation and insisted that the agencies were only doing their job.

Searches were ongoing late Thursday at the group’s offices in Bhopal, where it is based, as well as in Indore, Jabalpur Jaipur, Ahmadabad, Delhi and Mumbai, people familiar with the matter said.

IT officials also searched the residences of Dainik Bhaskar promoters- brothers Sudhir, Girish and Pawan Agarwal- in Bhopal, the Prasar Bharati News Service said, adding that the I-T team was being supported by the state police.

Income tax department sources told ET that the members had figured in the Panama Paper of people and entities that had stashed money abroad. The search has been carried out after a detailed analysis of data mined using technology and information gathered through inquiries, they said, adding that there were also allegations of tax evasion by the group by claiming bogus expenses and purchases using shell entities. Charges included floating several paper companies for this purpose with employees as shareholders and directors.

Money siphoned off was allegedly routed back into various personal and business investments, in the form for share premium and foreign investment through Mauritius- based entities, they claimed.

There was no statement on the search from the Central Board of Direct Taxes till press time Thursday.

In a news release, the Dainik Bhaskar Group said the houses of some of it employees were also being searched and that mobile phones of some of them were seized. It complained that no female officials were part of the search teams, though woman employees were present at some of the offices.

OPPOSITION ATTACK GOVT.

Opposition leaders attacked the Modi government over the I-T search. Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot tweeted: “Income Tax raid on Dainik Bhaskar newspaper & Bharat Samachar news channel is a brazen attempt to suppress the voice of media”.

AICC briefing spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi alleged that the I-T action was due to a critical news series by the Dainik Bhaskar. West Bengal CM Mamata Bhaskarjee tweeted: “The attack on journalists & media houses is yet another BRUTAL attempt to stifle democracy.” S-ET

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