New Delhi: The Income Tax Department has charged six family members of RJD chief Lalu Prasad, including wife, son and daughters, under the new and stringent anti- benami assets Act in connection with its probe into land deals worth Rs 1,000 crore.
The department has also served notices of attachment of assets to Lalu's MP daughter Misa Bharti, son-in-law Shailesh Kumar, his wife and former Bihar Chief Minister Rabri Devi, son and Bihar Deputy CM Tejashwi Yadav and daughters Chanda and Ragini Yadav.
The provisional attachment order, accessed by PTI, has been issued under Section 24(3) (where the taxman thinks the person in possession of the property held benami may alienate the property) of the Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Act, 2016 and Lalu's kin have been identified as the "beneficiaries" of the alleged benami assets.
Violators under the Act, enacted in 1988 but implemented from November 1 last year, attract a rigorous imprisonment (RI) of up to 7 years and fine up to 25 per cent of the fair market value of the property.
The department has attached about a dozen plots and buildings in Delhi and Bihar including a farm house and land in the Palam Vihar area, a residential building in the upmarket New Friends Colony area of south Delhi, nine plots on a 256.75 decimal land area in Phulwari Sharif area in Patna, where a shopping mall was being constructed, among few others in the same area in Bihar's capital.
The department has said these alleged benami assets bear a "deed" value of about Rs 9.32 crore but the taxman has estimated their current market value at Rs 170-180 crore.
In Patna, Tejashwi told reporters that "all these rumours are spread because of political vendetta and political conspiracies" and dismissed the charges as "unsubstantiated allegations."
The order has also identified firms like Ms Mishail Packers and Printers Private Limited, AB Exports Pvt Ltd, Delight Marketing Pvt Ltd and A K Infosystem Pvt Ltd as the 'benamidars' in this case.
The department has been investigating the case for quite sometime now and had carried out country-wide searches last month against those who had a role or were linked with the purchase and sale of these assets.
Bharti and her husband Shailesh were also summoned by the department for questioning in this case in the past but the couple skipped the dates.
Official sources said they are expected to be summoned again before more assets in this case are attached similarly.
Benami properties are those in which the real beneficiary is not the one in whose name (benamidar) the property has been purchased.
The department will now move for confiscating these assets after getting approval from the Adjudicating Authority of the Act. The Act allows for prosecution of the beneficial owner, the benamidar, the abettor and the inducer to benami transactions.
As per provisions of the Act, assets held benami after final prosecution are liable for confiscation by the government without payment of compensation.
The action under this Act is over and above the normal tax evasion probe and prosecution that the department will undertake against the accused under the Income Tax Act, 1961 for charges of tax evasion.
As per official data till May 23, the I-T Department had identified 400 benami transactions in the country and provisional attachment of assets was done in about 240 cases.
"The market value of properties under attachment is more than Rs 600 crore," the I-T data had said.
The RJD chief, earlier, had put up a brave face after the I-T raids in this case, saying he was "not scared at all" and would continue to fight against the "fascist forces".
"BJP mein himmat nahi hai ki Lalu ki awaz ko daba sake...
Lalu ki awaz dabayenge to desh bhar me karoron Lalu khare ho jayenge... Main gidarbhabhki se nahi darne wala hoon (BJP does not have the courage to stifle my voice...
If it tries to silence me, crore of Lalus will come forward. I am not scared of empty threats)," he had said in a series of tweets after the search operation.
The BJP had also accused Prasad, Bharti, Tejashwi and his other son Tej Pratap of involvement in corrupt land deals worth over Rs 1,000 crore, and had asked the central government to probe such transactions.