BENGALURU: Under pressure to justify its raids, the I-T department has given a political twist to the VG Siddhartha case, suggesting a murky link between CCD’s financial mess and a Congress politician.
Mounting a defence after the CCD founder cited “undue and unfair pressure” from tax authorities, in the two letters that surfaced after he went missing, the I-T department claimed that Siddhartha came under the spotlight only after a document trail uncovered during raids on the controversial Congress leader led to links to CCD.
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An I-T department source involved in the investigation told TNIE that when sleuths raided the politician, they found financial transactions with Siddhartha which “were not reflected” in the latter’s records. The department would never have touched Siddhartha, but for his many “secretive and circuitous” financial transactions with the leader, the source said.
During the simultaneous searches on the residence of the politician and his financial assistant in August 2017, sleuths stumbled upon evidence of financial transactions with Cafe Coffee Day and Soul Space.
I-T authorities said that about Rs 20 crore had been transferred to the leader in a roundabout fashion by Cafe Coffee Day.
The source said that the person involved in this transaction, Rajnish Gopinath, a citizen of Singapore, was found with Rs 1.2 crore unaccounted cash at his residence.
Gopinath claimed that it belonged to Siddhartha. “Numerous messages were found on his mobile which indicate his active involvement in cross-border hawala transactions. There is strong evidence in his telephonic conversations too,” the I-T source said.
Gopinath is the brother of Muneesh Gopinath, who was Director, Finance, with CCD, and was found to be involved in illegal hawala transactions, routing money to destinations through hawala, many on behalf of CCD and closely linked to the politician. During the searches, they admitted to these hawala transactions.
TNIE repeatedly attempted to contact the Congress leader for his comments, but he was not reachable.
The source alleged, “One example of CCD’s money laundering is the CCD Group company, Devadarshini Info Tech, which claimed business losses of Rs 15.27 crore in 2013-14 and paid Rs 21.62 crore in expenses. Devadarshini Info Tech’s main objective was to manufacture computers and computer peripherals, with no employees on its payrolls."
"However, it indulged in apparent bogus trading of timber and logs from another CCD Group company incorporated in Guyana -- Vaitarna Holding Private Inc -- a foreign subsidiary of Vaitarna Timber Trading, to illegally transfer funds out of India without any formal agreement. Further, it claimed that the logs were damaged on the high seas without providing proof. These logs arrived at Tuticorin Port. No record of duty, taxes or levies paid have been maintained. It sold these logs for less than half the purchase price to another party, again without any formal agreement. Devadarshini Info Tech and the holding company of the seller have the same large shareholder, VG Siddhartha of CCD.’’
The source alleged in 2010, that a Cypriot company, Arduino Holdings, had lent funds to Coffee Day Enterprises, the parent of CCD and the only company in India which has received funds from this Cyprus-based company.
It was alleged that evasion techniques have been used in the conversion of CCD into equity shares by Coffee Day Enterprises.
Sleuths who studied these firms and their transactions alleged many employees and directors of CCD companies were given loans through Lakshmi Vilas Bank, which, in turn, were diverted to group companies.
Loans were given freely, without assessing the creditworthiness of the individuals relying on bogus purchase guarantee letters by CCD Group.
The bank gave Rs 145 crore to so-called farmers, including Nitin Bagmane of Bagmane Developers, that is housed in CCD Square building.