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Congress Accuses Centre, UP Govt of Shielding Developer Over CBDT Connection

Spokesperson Manish Tewari asked whether the probe against real estate developer Arvind Goel had been stalled because he's a relative of CBDT chairman Sushil Chandra.

New Delhi: The Congress has accused the BJP governments – both at the Centre and in Uttar Pradesh – of stalling a black money-related probe being conducted by a special investigation team (SIT) in the state against real estate developer Arvind Goel. According to the Congress, this is because Goel is a close relative of Sushil Chandra, the chairman of the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT).

Chandra, who took over the post in November 2016, has been given an extension of two terms by the Narendra Modi government, and is seen to be close to the ruling regime. Chandra’s second extension will expire in May 2019. 

Addressing a press meet at the Congress headquarters in New Delhi on January 28, party spokesperson Manish Tewari said, “We want to ask this question to the prime minister, the chief minister and the interim union finance minister: Was this probe withdrawn because he [Goel] happens to be a close relative of the CBDT chairman? As you all know, he has been given unprecedented extensions by the NDA/BJP government. We want to ask the prime minister, is that reflective of your commitment to weed out black money?” 

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Earlier on January 28, a report in Economic Times said the Yogi Adityanath government, in December 2017, hedged the SIT probe five days after it was cleared by him against businessman Arvind Goel as it would amount to his “mental harassment”. As per file notings at the chief minister’s office, “status quo” was reportedly asked to be maintained on Goel’s representation.

Goel and his brother Vipin Goel allegedly bought about 200 acres of land parcels in Moradabad through what seemed to be 20 shell companies by allegedly using black money between 2004 and 2017. As per the initial investigation, the money was transacted through 57 sale deeds and 37 power of attorneys. These dealings had massive irregularity in payment of stamp duty, thus causing a loss of lakhs of rupees to the state exchequer.

Minister of state in UP, Ranvendra Pratap Singh, first flagged the irregularities in a letter to the chief minister on July 28, 2017 at the behest of a journalist, Manoj Dubey.

Responding to the letter, the government asked the district magistrate of Moradabad to initiate a probe in October that year. The DM later gave a clean chit to Goel.

However, notings in the internal inquiry made by Harsh Narayan Singh, the officer on special duty in the stamp and registration department on November 21, 2017, along with some other senior officers, sought disciplinary action against the DM for not carrying out a thorough probe into the matter. The news report said, “In the detailed observation, he and other senior officers were of the common view that the report was prepared in ‘connivance’ with the people under the scanner.”

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Tewari told reporters, “The then state principal secretary in charge of food security and drug administration felt that probe by multiple agencies such as the CBI, Enforcement Directorate and the Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) be carried out to look into the matter. As such a demand came from within the government, the CM ordered an SIT probe on December 1, 2017. However, on December 6, 2017, it was stopped citing mental harassment to Goel. I want to ask, since when has the BJP, which had done a PhD in mental harassment, has become sensitive to it.”

The Congress leader said, “My second question to the prime minister and the finance minister is, in the light of these revelations, with prima facie proof, what do they propose to do about it.” 

He said his party would “await the response of the government for a couple of days” before taking it up further.