“We won’t give in to pressure."
Unpaid taxes of £68 million have been found at the offices of Indian media group Dainik Bhaskar.
The Income Tax Department (ITD) raided Bhaskar’s offices on Thursday, July 22, 2021.
The raids took place in over 30 locations across Delhi, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Rajasthan.
The ITD also raided the home of the group’s editor, Om Gaur. According to officials, the raids were based on “conclusive evidence of tax fraud”.
During the raids, they recovered almost £70 million of unpaid taxes over six years.
Violations of stock market rules and evidence of company names being used for fake expenses were also found.
In a statement on Saturday, July 24, 2021, the ITD said:
“During the search, it was found that they have been operating several companies in the names of their employees, which have been used for booking bogus expenses and routing of funds…
“Several of the employees, whose names were used as shareholders and directors, have admitted that they were not aware of such companies.
“Such companies have been used for multiple purposes namely booking bogus expenses and siphoning off the profits from listed companies, routing of funds so siphoned into their closely held companies to make investments, making of circular transactions etc.
“The quantum of income escapement using this modus operandi, detected so far, amounts to £68 million spread over a period of six years.
“However, the quantum may be more as the group has used multiple layers and investigations are being carried out to unravel the entire money trail.”
The ITD also said that Bhaskar has been practising cyclical trading. A transfer of funds amounting to £214,000 among companies in unrelated businesses has been found.
Alongside Bhaskar, Bharat Samachar’s offices in Lucknow have also been searched, as well as their editor’s home.
The ITD claimed to have seized a total of almost £20 million in “unaccounted” transactions from Bharat Samachar.
However, both media houses may have had raids on their offices for a different reason.
Bhaskar and Bharat Samachar have recently released reports that criticise Narendra Modi’s government for its handling of the Covid-19 crisis.
Therefore, Bhaskar Editor Om Gaur believes the raids by the ITD are an attempt to silence the media.
Gaur told NDTV that the raids were a surprise, and a clear attempt to suppress independent journalism.
Gaur said: “We won’t give in to pressure. We will stick to our journalism.”
However, the ITD has branded these allegations as false.
In a short statement on Twitter, they claim that their raids had nothing to do with the media houses’ editorial decisions.