Is Hasan Ali Khan really India’s biggest tax evader as being touted by enforcement agencies? Or is he just a conman who charmed people into believing that he is a business tycoon or venture capitalist?
The mystery over Khan’s money laundering empire deepened further after Finance Ministry told a Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance last week that it would be difficult to recover tax arrears of Rs 91, 859 crore by selling his attached properties.
This raised questions on Khan’s modus operandi. Is he a front for other money launderers that the investigating agency officials believe he could be? Is his net worth over-pitched? Or, did Khan charm gullible people through fake documents to showcase his 60-year-old self as a filthy rich man?
Behind bars for various cases, including tax evasion, passport forgery, antique smuggling and money laundering, Khan has been accused of stashing away nearly $8 billion of unaccounted money in the Zurich branch of United Bank of Switzerland (UBS). Income Tax officials in Mumbai pegged Khan’s total income at Rs 110,412,68,85,303 from 2001 to 2008.
The massive sums of liquid cash that Khan wired out of the country was quite a puzzle, since he had no substantial assets in India to show his high networth. His declared annual income from horse racing was Rs 20 to 25 lakh and his assets too low to recover tax dues.
Khan told ED officials that his wife Rheema owned two properties - one on Peddar Road, Mumbai, bought for `1.40 crore in 2003, and a flat at Koregaon Park, Pune. He also owned a second-hand black Porsche Cayennes bought in 2006 for `61 lakh.
ED sources said that the case against Khan might take more time as overseas banks used by him to channelise money were not cooperating. “The agency has requested Swiss banking authorities last week for a meeting so that ED and I-T can place documents related to Khan’s account. We are still awaiting a reply.”
UBS in February 2011 had denied that Khan was a customer claiming that the documentation supposedly supporting the claim was false. It did not have accounts for, or assets of, Khan and had no knowledge of the alleged money transactions.
While officials managed to trace a transaction showing that Khan received $300million in his UBS Singapore account allegedly from arms-dealer Adnan Khashoggi’s Chase Manhattan bank account in NY, a detailed enquiry was required to make it a water-tight case.