New Delhi: The Income Tax Department raided Mumbai's Lilavati Hospital on Monday after the Supreme Court issued notices to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Enforcement Directorate (ED), Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) and Central Government last week and sought criminal proceedings against five trustees of the hospital suspected to be involved in money laundering through black money foreign accounts.
Lilavati Hospital is a five-star hospital frequented by Mumbai's rich and famous but on Monday morning, investigators from the Income Tax Department also came calling to investigate financial irregularities committed by its trustees which was exposed by CNN-IBN in February.
Sources in the Income Tax Department told CNN-IBN that the search operation was a part of a larger investigation following Supreme Court cracking the whip on the Centre and the Reserve Bank of India seeking probe into the alleged money laundering by the trustees of the hospital.
The trustees include - Prabodh Kirtilal Mehta, Rashmi Kirtilal Mehta and their sons Chetan and Bhavin Mehta, along with their appointee Vijay Choraria. Most of them are busy in Switzerland right now to close down their black money accounts.
CNN-IBN had exposed how Mehtas have siphoned out money from the hospital over the years and deposited it in foreign bank accounts through the hawala route.
CNN-IBN had also shown how the shell companies registered by the Mehtas are located in the same address in Mauritius where 10 telecom companies suspected in the 2G spectrum scam had registered their offices.
Inside Lilavati Hospital, searches were carried out in the purchase, finance, bio-medical and pharma departments. Computers of all the four departments have been seized to analyse the hard disks. The five head of departments were also questioned at length.
Income Tax officers also raided all the companies listed in the CNN-IBN investigation. They tracked down Chetan Mehta at the premises of Adesh International, a company suspected to have been used to divert black money in and out of the country.
Sources say that they recovered several sensitive bank documents from inside in a safe in the office.
Mayfair Realtors and Vesta Infrastructures, owned by declared absconder Suresh Motwane, who was paid Rs 14 crore by Lilavati Trust in 2002 to supply machinery, was also raided
Mayfair Realtors and Vesta Infrastructures have not supplied anything till date to the hospital.
The Mehtas, big diamond merchants, are convicted of money laundering in 2007 in Belgium. Yet, the Government still has not directed the SEBI and the RBI to remove the names of Mehta family members from their shareholding and investments in ING Vysya Bank and IndusInd Bank to stop them from managing public funds and jeopardising the banking industry.
(With inputs from Toral Varia in Mumbai)