Rs 14-cr cash seized in raids on Kerala-based evangelist, his group: I-T dept sources

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New Delhi, Nov 9 (PTI) The Income-Tax Department has seized about Rs 14 crore cash as part of its searches against a Kerala-based self-styled evangelist and his group who allegedly 'siphoned off' tax exempted funds and donations received from abroad for the poor, and pumped them into real estate and personal investments, official sources said on Monday.

Tax sleuths have seized about Rs 8 crore in cash from various premises of this group in Kerala. About Rs 6 crore cash was seized earlier after the raids were launched last week, they said.

Some demonetised currency (Rs 1000 and Rs 500 notes) has also been recovered during the raids, they said.

The case pertains to the Believers Church group based in Thiruvalla, sources said.

Sixty-six premises in states like Kerala, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Karnataka, Chandigarh, Punjab and Telangana were raided by the tax department on November 5 on charges of alleged tax evasion. The Central Board of Direct Taxes had earlier said that the group enjoys exemption under the I-T Act of 1961 as charitable or religious trusts.

'The group operates places of worship, a number of schools and colleges across the country, a medical college and a hospital in Kerala,' a statement had said.

The board had said the searches were launched as 'credible information was received that the group has received donations from foreign countries ostensibly for helping the poor and the destitute and for evangelical purposes but was actually siphoning out such tax-exempted funds in cash to engage in unaccounted cash transactions for personal and other illegal expenses in real estate transactions'.

It had said the group operates about 30 trusts, registered across the country, and most of them 'exist only on paper and have been found to be used for routing unaccounted funds and for accommodation (hawala) transactions'.

'It has been found that the modus operandi of the group is to systematically inflate expenses with the help of other parties who would return the inflated amount in cash through domestic hawala channels to the functionaries of the group,' the statement had said. PTI NES AAR AAR