BJP, SP spar over record cash seizure from perfume trader

While BJP is using the seizure to corner the Samajwadi Party, its leader Akhilesh Yadav asserts that the BJP has shot itself in the foot by mistakenly raiding its own man. He claims the actual target was SP MLC Pushpraj Jain who had launched “Samajwadi perfume.” A report by Mudit Mathur

The biggest ever seizure of cash by CBIC (Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs) during raids on the around 40 different premises and business locations of perfume manufactures and merchants of the Kanpur and Kannauj unearthing huge volumes of cash and gold. The sleuths recovered and seized amazingly unprecedented cash stashed––amounting to Rs. 196 crore, 23 kg of gold worth about Rs11 crore and 600 kg of sandalwood oil worth nearly Rs. 6 crore in an action-packed weeklong raids with political overtones over its timings and targets. The issue triggered political acrimony as BJP linked the money with Samajwadi Party.

Tax officials deployed multiple currency-counting machines and worked overtime to count recovered currency notes wrapped in plastic envelopes. Investigators put together the pieces of evidence how a modest businessman could stockpile such a big mountain of cash and gold – who use to roam himself just on a scooter during his daily routine publicly. Unaccounted sandalwood oil, perfumes worth crores have also been seized from Mr Jain’s factory. The recovery surprised even the neighbours of perfume businessman Piyush Jain. Raids were also carried out at offices and warehouses owned by a transporter – M/s Ganpati Road Carriers in Kanpur to unearth such a big tax evasion.

The DGGI has also said Piyush Jain “has accepted that the cash recovered from the residential premises is related to sale of goods without payment of GST (Goods and Services Tax).”Based on the seized cash and other evidence recovered in the raids, Mr Jain was arrested on tax evasion charges.

Jain is the promoter of Odochem Industries, which supplies perfume compounds to Trimurti Fragrances – which makes the Shikhar brand of pan masala and other scented tobacco products. GST Intelligence officials disclosed that the raids were conductedon the basis of evidence gathered from raids on Trimurti Fragrances and a road transporter accused of generating illegal income by dispatching goods with fake invoices and without e-way bills. Trimurti Fragrances has admitted culpability and deposited Rs 3.09 crores, the DGGI statement said.

“This is the biggest recovery in the history of the CBIC. No arrest has taken place so far,” Vivek Johri, the Chairman of the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC), told media after conclusion of raids.

BJP is using these raids as an additional arms in its weaponry against Samajwadi Party while Akhilesh Yadav asserts his defence as the case of mistaken identity raiding his own BJP man being identical to Samajwadi Party MLC Pushpraj Jain who had launched “Samajwadi perfume.” Denying any link with Piyush Jain, Akhilesh remarked, “The BJP got its own businessman raided by mistake.”

The BJP had alleged that it was Piyush Jain who recently launched the Samajwadi perfume. “The slogan of socialists – The public’s money is ours! 100+ crores recovered in the GST raid on Piyush Jain, who launched Samajwadi perfume at Samajwadi Party’s office, which is the black money of socialism?” tweeted BJP National Spokesperson of BJP Sambit Patra with photographs of money recovery and Akhilesh Yadav launching Samajwadi Perfume thereby targeting him to implicate behind accumulation of huge unaccounted money recovered in raids.

Even Prime Minister Narendra Modi targeted taking jibe, “Before 2017, the perfume of corruption that they had sprinkled all over Uttar Pradesh is there for everyone to see.” While inaugurating a Metro route in Kanpur he made special mention, “Boxes filled with notes have come out. The people of Kanpur understand business and trade well.”

Akhilesh Yadav while ridiculing such remarks coming from the top leadership, clarified, “The BJP had mixed up businessman Piyush Jain with Samajwadi Party’s Pushpraj Jain, who launched the perfume named after the party. Denying any link with Piyush Jain, he said the BJP got “its own businessman raided by mistake.”

Reacting to Mr Yadav’s response, Congress leader P Chidambaram tweeted, “Is the seizure of Rs 257 crore of cash and jewellery in UP a case of ‘comedy of errors? Instead of searching Pushparaj Jain, was the wrong person — Piyush Jain — searched?” “I suppose the comedy will not end here. As more accusations are traded between BJP and SP, more characters will emerge. The case exposed the utter failure of demonetisation,” he further added.

The matter was not closed here as the Income Tax department raided left over perfume manufactures who allegedly had close connections with Samajwadi Party and had collaboration with French perfume makers during Akhilesh rule. They were part of a business delegate during his France visit.

The IT raids on two Uttar Pradesh-based perfume manufacturing and real estate groups including that of Samajwadi Party MLC Pushpraj alias Pampi Jain, revealed his “involvement in tax evasion by under-reporting sales of perfumes, stock manipulation, fudging books of account to shift profits from taxable unit to tax exempt unit, inflation of expenditure, etc.” “Evidences found in the sales office and main office have revealed that the group makes 35-40 percent of its retail sales in cash through interim bills and these cash receipts are not recorded in the regular books of account. Thus, evasion of taxes running into crores of rupees,” it alleged.

The searches were carried out on December 31 at over 40 premises in Maharashtra, Delhi, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and at some places in Uttar Pradesh, including Kannauj where Jain resides.The Samajwadi Party said that the I-T action amount to “open misuse of central agencies by a scared BJP” ahead of the upcoming Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls. SP president Akhilesh Yadav had recently launched a perfume called ‘Samajwadi Ittra’ manufactured by Jain in the run-up to the U.P. elections.

Countering the allegations of political vendetta levelled by Samajwadi Party, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had said that the agencies were undertaking the action after they got “actionable intelligence.” The CBDT said in its statement, that “evidence” of booking purchases from bogus parties to the extent of about Rs. 5 crore have also been unearthed. The analysis of the “incriminating” evidence indicates that “unaccounted” income so generated is invested in various real estate projects in Mumbai, acquisition of properties both in India and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), it revealed. Pushpraj maintains regional office is in Mumbai. Sources said that his perfume business is spread across the Gulf countries.

Earlier also, the I-T department raided the residences of people associated with the Samajwadi Party. It raided the residence and offices of Jainendra Yadav in Lucknow, Rajeev Rai in Mau, Manoj Rai in Agra and some others closely associated with the SP and party chief Akhilesh Yadav. Akhilesh had attacked the BJP over the raids and said the party was misusing agencies.