The Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) said it seized unaccounted assets worth ₹24.93 crore and detected undisclosed foreign assets of more than ₹1,000 crore in a raid on the premises of a company which runs a chain of luxury hotels.
A statement from the agency does not name the company in question and refers to it as “a leading member of the hospitality industry, running a hotel abroad and a chain of luxury hotels”.
However, media reports quoting sources in the finance ministry and the I-T department say it is Bharat Hotels Group, which runs the luxury hotel chain The LaLit. The raids happened on January 19 on 13 premises of the group in the National Capital Region.
CBDT unearthed ₹71.5 lakh in cash, jewellery worth ₹23 crore and luxury watches valued at ₹1.2 crore, it said in the statement. “The investigation has successfully lifted the veil, leading to detection of undisclosed foreign assets of more than Rs. 1,000 crore, apart from domestic tax evasion of more than Rs. 35 crore which may, inter alia, lead to consequences under the Black Money Act, 2015, as also, action under the Income-tax Act, 1961 respectively,” the CBDT said. The foreign assets include investments in properties in the U.K. and the U.A.E., and deposits with foreign banks.
The department said further investigations were in progress. “Evidence seized during the search reveals that a large amount of black money was stashed abroad by the group, through the mechanism of Trusts, formed in the early 1990s in tax havens,” according to the statement.
The group is headed by chairperson and managing director Jyotsna Suri, one of the few women at the helm of a hospitality company in India. She took over the company in 2006 after the death of her husband, parliamentarian and hotelier Lalit Suri. He started Bharat Hotels in 1988, which opened its first hotel in Delhi as a franchisee of Holiday Inn. Jyotsna joined in 1989 as joint managing director. One of the first big steps for the couple was buying the erstwhile Gulab Bhavan in Srinagar at the height of the insurgency in Kashmir.
Jyotsna Suri has taken her company from six to 14 hotels in India and London, since she took over.