Mumbai: The Income Tax department has recommended cancellation of tax breaks given to charitable trusts controlled by self-styled ‘godman’ Asaram Bapu.
According to a report in The Indian Express, the recommendation of the IT department comes on the basis of its probe which revealed that the trusts held undisclosed income of nearly Rs 2,300 crore since 2008-09.
The tax department has also unearthed “benami investments” allegedly linked to Asaram and his followers in real estate, mutual funds, shares, Kisan Vikas Patras and fixed deposits. The investments run into crores of rupees. Most of these investments were allegedly done through seven Kolkata-based private companies which were acquired by Asaram and run by his followers.
Asaram, through his followers, also ran a lending scheme that offered cash loans to individuals and entities, including builders, at interest rates of 1-2%.
Asaram and his followers disbursed at least Rs 3,800 crore to over 1,400 borrowers across India since 1991-92.
The income-tax department has raided 71 premises allegedly belonging to the self-styled godman and his followers in 11 cities and seized 22,000 documents and 300 GB data. They reveal that Asaram had huge amounts of unaccounted interest income, cash in hand and properties running into hundreds of crores.
The godman and his disciples run over 400 ashrams in the country, but the trusts have declared only-one tenth of the actual donations received over the last 20 years.
The IT investigation has also found that Asaram used ‘human couriers’, mostly his followers, to transfer cash.
Asaram is currently lodged in jail for allegedly sexually assaulting a 16-year-old girl at his ashram near Jodhpur in Rajasthan in 2013.
Asked about the findings of the I-T probe, Neelam Dubey, spokesperson of Sant Shri Asaramji Ashram, said: “This is a conspiracy against Bapuji and a direct attack on Hindu dharma. Bapuji does not have any assets, he does not even own a car. No charges have been proved against him till now.”...