Mayawati garland worth Rs 5 crore, say I-T sleuths

Mayawati may have set her cops on a bee chase but the income tax department is sniffing up the curious case of the currency garland. While the BSP claims the garland of Rs 1,000 notes gifted to the Uttar Pradesh chief minister during the party’s 25th founding day celebrations was worth Rs 21 lakh, taxmen say the value could run to Rs 5 crore.

Here’s how. Preliminary investigations by the I-T sleuths reveal the garland weighed 65kg, all in Rs 1,000 notes. A wad of one hundred Rs 1,000 notes weighs around 120g. Taking out the weight of the thread in the garland, sleuths say the net mass of the currency "mala" would not be anything less than 60 kg. With inputs gathered from RBI, officials say it would take at least 500 bundles of Rs 1,000 denomination to make the garland.

Sources said I-T sleuths gathered information from BSP insiders on the composition of the garland while a team has been working with banks and other sources to track the money transaction and "sponsors" who, according to the party, "gifted" the notes.

Since all the notes used in the garland are believed to be new, said an I-T officer, it somehow belies the Dalit party’s claim that its poor/rich followers contributed to the making of the mala. Once the I-T officials take a close look at the garland, pinpointing the source of the sponsors would be easier, said sources.

The I-T department may soon ask the Dalit party to declare the source of the funds used in the massive celebrations organized in Lucknow on March 15. In any case, the BSP would have to file all relevant details on expenditure in their I-T return for the assessment year 2010-11 which is to be completed between April and September of this year.

This is not the first time the Dalit Czarina has courted controversy on the scale of offerings made to her. A few years ago when the CBI had registered a disproportionate assets (DA) case against her after seizing a number of bank accounts carrying several crores of rupees in deposits, the BSP chief had then claimed that they came through "donations" by party supporters.

Both CBI and I-T department had in their investigation in the DA case unearthed 72 immovable properties and more than 300 donations valued at Rs 13 crore in the name of Mayawati and her family members. The CBI had frozen more than 50 bank accounts with more than Rs 7 crore in them.

The latest display of wealth by Mayawati caused a furore in Parliament, with Congress joining ranks with Opposition parties in condemning the way the Dalit party had indulged in extravagance over her mentor’s birth anniversary and in celebration of her party’s founding day.

In a similar case a few years ago, the I-T department, during their assessment of I-T returns of RJD chief Lalu Prasad, had sought details of expenses made by him in his daughter’s marriage and the reception at a five-star hotel in the Capital. Huge cash payments made for that reception, it is believed, led the tax officials to question the hotel managers as to why PAN and other details were not sought at the time of clearing of the bills.

Why is RBI not taking any actions against Mayavati for misusing currency notes? (TNN)

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