The Income Tax sleuths launched simultaneous raids on houses and businesses owned by the reigning Kerala superstars Mammootty and Mohanlal at 22 locations spread in the southern states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. Reports in the local media said several incriminating documents were seized during the raids but IT officials refused to confirm it saying it’s too early to give the details.
|In the cross-hairs: Mammooty and Mohanlal|
“The searches will continue for two more days or even more if the raids lead to more assets. We will issue a detailed press release at the end of the searches,” said TP Krishna Kumar, the Income Tax Commissioner here.
Mammootty was home when the sleuths arrived at his house in Chennai at around 5.30am. He flew down to Kochi late in the evening as the officers wanted his presence while opening two lockers in his house here.
Mohanlal, who was inducted into the territorial army three years back as lieutenant colonel, was away in a remote location of his new film Pranayam in the coastal Rameshwaram area in Tamil Nadu.
The officials had in the morning recorded statements of the superstars and asked them to reach Kochi to verify with them the records that they seized from their houses and businesses.
Documents indicated that the superstars used to charge up to Rs15mn for a film as remuneration but a major portion of that was not unaccounted.
They also recovered hard currencies running into hundreds of thousands of Indian rupees.
A vast collection of antiques and a pair of elephant tusks were found at the house of Mohanlal here.
The sleuths could not open one of his rooms that needed biometric identification. He’s expected here today to open the room and give his second statement.
Mammootty and Mohanlal rose to stardom in the late eighties and are recipients of several national and state awards, including the top civilian award of the Padma Shri and honorary doctorates.
The raids began simultaneously at all the 22 locations yesterday morning with some 200 officials verifying records at their homes. They include offices of Mohanlal’s driver and business partner Antony Perumbavoor and Mammootty’s partner Anto Antony.
The hospital run by Mammootty’s daughter and her husband in Bangalore also came under the IT scanner. IT sleuths cited a huge gap in the tax returns and the income the superstars make in a year.
Both have the same chartered accountant who has his head office in Thiruvananthapuram.
Both stars own their own production houses. Mohanlal owns VismayaMax while Mammootty makes films under his Play House banner. They are also much sought-after brand ambassadors who often appear on public interest campaigns free of cost.
The searches were well planned and kept top secret. The IT officials also reached the home of Mohanlal in Thiruvananthapuram where his mother resides.
Last week the controversial Kozhikode businessman K A Rauf, brother-in-law of Industries Minister Kunhalikkutty’s wife, said a Malayalam superstar and a business house in the state were engaged in a huge real estate deal in Maharashtra and they trapped him in a police case that landed him in jail there. The stars, both in their fifties, are said to be active players in the real estate sector as well.
The IT officials locked the homes from inside and no one was allowed to come in or go out as they prepared their report based on the superstars’ IT returns.
Mohanlal also owns some hotels in Bangalore and had reportedly bought a plush house in the world’s tallest tower, Burj Khalifa, in Dubai. The duo can be forced to pay heavy fine for concealing unaccounted money if proven true.
Veteran Malayalam writer Sukumar Azhikode meanwhile said Mohanlal should be stripped of the honorary rank of Lt Colonel and urged Defence Minister A K Antony to recommend such a course of action to President Pratibha Patil.
“It’s really a shame that superstars are involved in evading tax and they are doing it by exploiting their innocent fans,” Azhikode told reporters in Thrissur.
Mohanlal and Azhikode have been engaged in a war of words since last year when the superstar called the writer a mentally-deranged person and the latter took him to court.