The biggest-ever seizure of cash in new currency grew to over Rs 5 crore on Friday even as the Income Tax department said it detected unaccounted income worth Rs 152 crore after it conducted searches in a dozen premises in Bengaluru and other locations.
I-T officials said the cash found, after searches were launched on Thursday on the premises of two engineers, working with the state government, and two contractors has risen to Rs 5.7 crore and these notes are in the denomination of the newly introduced currency of Rs 2000.
"Total admission of unaccounted income by the group stands at Rs 152 crore. Investigations are on," they said.
They added the department also recovered 7 kg bullion and jewellery weighing 9 kg, worth Rs 5 crore, after these operations.
"About 90 lakh has been found in the old demonestised currency. In addition, several property documents were also found and seized," they said.
A team of over 50 I-T sleuths and police personnel had launched operations on Thursday and searched premises in Bengaluru, Chennai and Erode (Tamil Nadu).
The Central Board of Direct Taxes, the policy-making body of the tax department, had said in a statement here yesterday that: "The new notes and bullion are learnt to have been obtained by exchange of demonetised notes by payment of commission of an engineer and a contractor."
The tax sleuths had also seized some notes of Rs 100, demonetised notes of Rs 500 and a few gold biscuits during the operation, they said, adding the department had to call in note counting machines and additional staff to ascertain the value of the cash.
What had surprised the tax authorities is the sheer amount of new currency stashed by these individuals at a time when new notes are not available to the common public which is queueing up to withdraw even small amounts from their accounts.
"Rs 5.7 crore is the highest seizure of the new currency in the country post the currency ban on November 8. Some entry operators and bankers are under the scanner. Such volume of new currency cannot be obtained without the connivance of bank officials," a senior I-T department official said.
The department has also found a number of identity cards of various individuals from the searched premises which could have been used to illegally change the old currency with new ones.
The taxman also found a number of luxury cars parked in these locations.
Two days back, the Enforcement Directorate had seized Rs 10 lakh cash in new notes of Rs 2000 from the premises of a Kolkata-based doctor.
ED had conducted nationwide search operations on Thursday at 40 locations and seized about Rs 1 crore in new notes.
Both the I-T department and the ED, along with other enforcement agencies and police, are undertaking these operations after reports of instances of illegal exchange of old currency and stashing of new currency notes to perpetrate hawala and money laundering like activities.
Illustration: Uttam Ghosh/Rediff.com.