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5 Dec 2016

Cash courier in 'khaki'

Basant Rawat, TT, Ahmedabad, Dec. 4: The Ahmedabad businessman who had yesterday threatened to turn money-laundering whistleblower on politicians and industrialists was today questioned for 10 hours by income tax officials before being sent home in khaki uniform with police protection.
Mahesh Shah, 67, had declared Rs 13,860 crore under the Centre's income disclosure scheme in September but disappeared after an income-tax raid on his home last week.
Last evening, he surfaced dramatically in a television studio to claim he had been fronting for politicians and industrialists, whose names he threatened to reveal.
He was whisked away from the studio by tax officials and police, first to a police station and then to an income-tax office, where he spent all night before being allowed to go home around 11am today.
A controversy erupted after pictures of Shah in khaki popped up on social media. The police later explained that he had been asked to change into a uniform for security reasons. "It is our duty to provide protection. We just wanted to conceal his identity. Such steps are necessary to protect him in view of threat to his security," inspector M.U. Mashi of the Satellite area police station said.
Income tax official P.C. Modi told journalists: "At his request, the recording of his statement was temporarily concluded. It will resume, maybe tomorrow. I cannot reveal any more details."
"He was interrogated for 10 hours but was provided adequate rest in between because of his medical condition (Shah is a heart patient). He was provided food."
To a question, the official said Shah had not been asked any names and that he had been questioned only on the seizures at his home during the November 29-30 searches.
Police sources said Shah feared for his life and that four cops had been posted at his home in the city's Jodhpur area.
Claim ignored
The Union finance ministry said the illegal wealth disclosed as part of the income declaration scheme, which ended on September 30, was Rs 67,382 crore against the previous estimate of Rs 65,250 crore, PTI reported. It said there were 71,726 declarants.
But senior Congress politician P. Chidambaram cited Shah's claim that the Rs 13,860 crore he had declared did not belong to him, and suggested there could be "more holes" in the amnesty scheme.
"There is a Rs 13,860 crore hole in the Rs 65,000 crore IDS! How many more holes?" the former finance minister tweeted.
But the government said this declaration (and another of Rs 2 lakh crore by another declarant) "were not taken on record in the above figure because these declarations were found to be suspicious in nature being filed by persons of small means".

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