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Sonia and Rahul Gandhi’s company took loan from Hawala operator, authorities suspect black money involved

By now most of us the know the crux of the National Herald case. It revolves around allegations that Young Indian, a company owned by Gandhi’s, acquired assets of Associated Journals Limited (AJL), by paying Rs 50 lacs to purchase a loan of Rs 90.21 crore, and later converting the loan into shares. While the transactions seem complicated, there is one transaction which enables all of this.

Young Indian (YI) was incorporated on 23.11.2010, with a share capital of Rs 5 lakhs. In December, the loan which AJL owed to AICC, was transferred to Young Indian by AICC. So now AJL owed the money not to AICC but to YI. YI was supposed to pay Rs 50 lacs to AICC to purchase this loan.

But at this time, YI, a company which was just 1 month old, and had a share capital of just Rs 5 lacs, had no money to pay AICC against the loan. YI arranged this money a good 2 months after the loan was transferred. YI took a loan of Rs 1 cr and paid Rs 50 lacs to AICC on 01.03.2011.

In all of this, let us forget issues such as why did AICC hand over rights to collect Rs 90.21 crores to YI, for a mere Rs 50 lacs. Let us further forget how this right was then converted to shares in AJL. Let us also forget how AJL’s properties became YI’s properties by virtue of the above.

Let the focus be solely on one transaction: How did YI, a 3 month old company with nothing in its books, manage to get a Rs 1 crore loan.

The Income Tax department’s order goes into this aspects and the findings are shocking. The order states the following:

1. YI took a loan of Rs 1 crore from M/s Dotex Merchandise Pvt. Ltd. (Dotex) on 15.02.2011.

2. The order states that till the finalizing of the original income tax case, neither the principal nor the interest was paid back to Dotex by YI.

3. The terms of the loan, as per the confirmation letter furnished by YI, said that the tenure of the loan was 1 year from date of cheque. Thus the non repayment of the loan was in contravention of the terms and conditions of the loan, yet Dotex never took any action against YI. Dotex also failed to give any reasonable explanation as to why it did not demand return of the loan.

4. As per the order, the loan was finally repaid only in Financial Year 2015-16 “when the investigation proceedings were continuing and YI was confronted with the facts that M/s Dotex Merchandise Pvt Ltd was a paper company engaged in providing hawala entries.”

5. Mr Sunil Bhandari and Mr Sunil Sanganeria were directors of Dotex. Along with Dotex, they were directors of 50 other Kolkata based companies. The order states that during the course of raids/surveys by the Income Tax Department, many of these companies had been found engaging in the business of providing “accommodation entries“. Copies of bank accounts “had proved that these companies were engaged in business of accommodation entries” which typically involved “deposits of cash and issue of cheque of equivalent amount“.

6. The order explains what this business of accommodation entries is: issue of cheques by these companies in lieu of cash payments of equivalent amount by the recipient of the cheque i.e. a company approaches these companies with cash, and they give an equal amount of cheques in return. The companies charged a commission of 1% to 5% on such dealings. The cheques issued were shown as “loans” in the recipient’s books and were never repaid because “that loan represented the laundered money” of the same recipient.

7. The order observes that the loan of Rs 1 cr was given to YI, a new company with a capital base of just Rs 5 lakhs, without any guarantee.

8. The order further refers to Dotex as a “known Hawala entry operator” and “a company engaged in providing hawala
transactions“. It also says that this entry of Rs 1 crore loan given to YI, was already reported in the “Suspicious Transaction Report” of the Financial Intelligence Unit of the Government of India.

9. Later on, the order states that to prove the existence of the loan, YI only filed a copy of confirmation where address and name of person issuing such confirmation was not disclosed. YI neither proved the genuineness of the transactions nor creditworthiness of Dotex. YI could not even prove that Dotex was engaged in any meaningful business and had source of income and capacity to advance the loan.

10. The order observed many defects in the confirmation letter given for the loan. For example, it did not bear address of Dotex nor the name of authorised signatory. PAN of Dotex was not mentioned. Address of YI was not mentioned.

Based on all the above, the order concluded that:

The amount of Rs 1 crore in this case represents own laundered money of M/s Young Indian

All of the above is from the Income Tax order. This leaves us with some questions.

The findings of the order imply that Rs 1 crore was in fact black money of Young Indian itself, which was funneled to Dotex, and was returned by Dotex to Young Indian, as a loan of Rs 1 crore. But Young Indian as a company was merely 2-3 months old when all this happened, and had no transactions to generated such black money. Then who might have arranged such money? Was it the promoters of Young Indian:

Can the above shareholders and director of Young Indian explain the source of this Rs 1 crore black money which is alleged to have been paid to Dotex, in order for Young Indian to receive it back as a “loan”, which was repaid only after the Income Tax department highlighted to Young Indian that Dotex was in fact a hawala operator?

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