Actor Sonu Sood evaded tax to the tune of Rs. 20 Cr, says IT dept

New Delhi, The Income Tax (I-T) department said tax evasion to the tune of Rs. 20 crore was found after raids at the premises of a prominent actor Sonu Sood, who was engaged in numerous charity works during pandemic times. The taxmen have claimed the actor and his associates evaded tax using bogus entities.

An official statement issued by the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) did not name the actor. Sources however confirmed it is referring to actor Sonu Sood. 

The IT department also claimed that the actor’ s Charity Foundation raised funds from overseas donors using crowd funding platform in violation of FCRA rules. 

Raids were also conducted on a Lucknow-based real estate firm with which the film star partnered with and allegedly invested black money.

The statement said the “search and seizure” operations were conducted at 28 premises spread over Mumbai, Lucknow, Kanpur, Jaipur, Delhi, and Gurgaon.  

According to the IT department, the actor’s Charity Foundation started on July, 21, 2020, collected donations to the tune of Rs 18.94 crore from April 2021 till date, out of which it spent around Rs. 1.9 crore towards various relief work and the balance of Rs. 17 crore has been found lying unutilized in the bank account.

“It is seen that funds to the tune of Rs. 2.1 crore have also been raised by the Charity Foundation from overseas donors on a crowdfunding platform in violation of FCRA regulations,” it added.

CBDT said the “modus operandi” was that the actor would route his unaccounted income in the form of “bogus unsecured loans from many bogus entities”. 

“Investigations so far have revealed use of twenty such entries, the providers of which, on examination, have accepted on oath to have given bogus accommodation entries. They have accepted to have issued cheques in lieu of cash. There have been instances where professional receipts have been camouflaged as loans in the books of accounts for the purpose of evasion of tax. It has also been revealed that these bogus loans have been used for making investments and acquiring properties,” the statement said. 

Raids were also carried out at various premises of an Infrastructure group in Lucknow in which the actor was a partner in some real estate projects, and invested substantial funds. 

The IT department added that the search also revealed that the Group was involved in bogus billing of subcontracting expenses and siphoning off of funds. 

It said evidence of bogus contracts to the tune of over Rs. 65 crore have been found. 

“Evidence of unaccounted cash expenses, unaccounted sale of scrap and digital data evidencing unaccounted cash transactions has also been found. Further, it has been unearthed that the said Infrastructure Group/company has entered into a dubious circular transaction to the tune of Rs. 175 crore with an infrastructure company based in Jaipur. Further investigations are being carried out to establish the full extent of tax evasion,” the CBDT said. 

Cash of Rs 1.8 crore has also been seized during the course of the search and 11 Lockers have been placed under prohibitory order.

The statement added that search operations are still continuing and further investigations are in progress.

Actor Sonu Sood, who was lauded for his philanthropic work during the Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdown last year, has been raided by the Income Tax department. The searches that started on September 15. 

Sood had started his ‘Sood Charity Foundation’ on July 21 last year, in the middle of the migrant crisis witnessed due to the lockdown. 

(EW correspondent)