New Delhi: The Income Tax department has bust a racket of infrastructure companies in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana generating and laundering unaccounted wealth through non-existent sub-contractors. Searches conducted by the department earlier this month covered more than 40 premises leading to detection of unaccounted income of more than 2,000 crores, according to a statement from the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT).

The official statement said without quoting any names that search operation was also carried out on close associates including a former personal secretary to a prominent person which led to seizure of incriminating evidence. News agency PTI said premises of a former private secretary to former Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu was searched. A field official of the department, who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed that Naidu’s associate was covered in the search operation. TDP said in a statement on Saturday that political rivals were trying to malign the image of TDP national president N Chandrababu Naidu. His former personal secretary, who was relieved from Naidu’s office nine months ago, was harassed in the name of Income Tax raids for five days, the statement said. TDP also said that although the IT department said that irregularities of 2,000 crore were noticed in the country, political rivals were falsely campaigning that the amount was found at the premises of the official who left Naidu’s service and started blaming TDP. “Everyone knows that Chandrababu Naidu gave a call to abolish 2000 and 500 currency notes to curb corruption. The Telugu Desam (Party) also appealed to the Election Commission to bear the expenditure of contesting candidates," the statement said, adding that Naidu’s family discloses assets every year, something TDP’s political rivals do not do. Everyone knows that the TDP is concentrating on Development and welfare, said the statement.

The CBDT statement issued on Thursday said that searches were held on 6 February at Hyderabad, Vijaywada, Cuddapah, Vishakhapatnam, Delhi and Pune covering three prominent infrastructure groups based in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. “Investigations led to busting of a major racket of cash generation through bogus sub-contractors, over-invoicing and bogus billing. Several incriminating documents and loose papers were found and seized during the search, apart from emails, WhatsApp messages and unexplained foreign transactions," said the statement.

Several non-existent entities were used by the infrastructure firms to siphon off funds which as per early estimates, exceeds 2,000 crores, CBDT said, adding that the last entities in the chain of transactions were smaller ones with less than 2 crore sales to avoid keeping books of account and tax audits.

“Such entities were either not found at their registered address or were found to be shell entities. Several such sub-contractors were controlled by the principal contractors with all their income tax return filings and other compliances being done from the internet protocol addresses of main corporate office," said the CBDT statement. Foreign direct investment worth several crores in the associates of one of the infrastructure companies is suspected to be tax evaded money in disguise. Unexplained cash of Rs. 85 lakh and Jewellery worth Rs. 71 lakh have been seized and more than 25 bank lockers have been restrained after the search operations.

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