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Black Money Haul: Over Rs 200 Crores Seized; Raids Continue At Distillery Group, Congress MP's Premises In Odisha, Jharkhand

Since December 6, tax raids have been conducted at the premises of Congress leader and Rajya Sabha MP Dheeraj Sahu in Odisha and Jharkhand, Oore than Rs 200 crore of unaccounted cash has been recovered so far. The raids began on Wednesday (December 6).

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The seizure of "unaccounted" cash after the income-tax department raided an Odisha-based distillery group and entities linked to it is expected to reach Rs 290 crore, making it the "highest-ever" black money haul by any agency in a single operation, official sources said on Saturday.

The tax department has deployed about 40 large and small machines to count the currency notes and brought in more department and bank staffers to finish the process, which began on December 6 following raids against Boudh Distillery Private Limited and others, the sources said.

Besides these, more vehicles have also been requisitioned by the department to transport the seized cash to government banks in the state.

A premises linked to Congress's Rajya Sabha MP from Jharkhand, Dhiraj Prasad Sahu, was also searched as part of the operation, the sources said.

Sahu's staff expressed their inability to get a comment from the MP when PTI called on his phone for a reaction to the I-T department's action.

An e-mail sent by PTI to the distillery group also elicited no response.

The tax sleuths are now recording the statements of various company officials and others, the sources said, adding that the counting of cash is expected to be over by Saturday.

The total seizure of unaccounted cash is expected to be about Rs 290 crore, they told PTI.

Cash amounting to more than Rs 250 crore has been seized till now and the money is continuously being deposited in government bank branches in Odisha, the sources said. Most of the currency notes are of Rs 500 denomination.

This is the highest-ever cash seizure made by an agency in the country as part of an action against a single group and its linked entities, the sources said.

Some of the high-value seizures in the past include one from 2019 when the GST Intelligence raided a Kanpur-based businessman and seized cash amounting to Rs 257 crore and another instance where cash amounting to Rs 163 crore was unearthed by the I-T department during searches against a road construction firm in Tamil Nadu in July 2018.

The sources said cash amounting to almost Rs 230 crore was seized from about 10 almirahs kept on the premises of the company in Bolangir district, while the remaining amount was seized from locations in Titlagarh, Sambalpur and Ranchi. Around 200 big and small bags were used to pack the cash.

The searches were launched after the taxman got "actionable intelligence" of a huge amount of "out-of-book" sales and cash being remitted by liquor distributors, sellers and business groups.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi also took note of the development. In a post on X on Friday, he said: "Countrymen should look at the pile of these notes and then listen to the honest 'speeches' of their leaders.... Whatever has been looted from the public, every penny will have to be returned, this is Modi's guarantee."

The ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) in Odisha welcomed the tax raids.

"Jharkhand BJP leaders are saying the seized money belongs to Congress leaders. On the other hand, Congress leaders are saying it belongs to BJP leaders. Both are blaming the other. It seems like both BJP and Congress leaders had stashed their money with this businessman," it said in a statement.

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Union minister Dharmendra Pradhan also sought to know the source of the "benami wealth" seized from the liquor traders.

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