Amid a full-blown crisis in the ruling Congress in Rajasthan, the Income Tax Department on Monday carried out searches at 43 premises of three business establishments, including a popular jewellery chain, linked to party leaders for alleged tax evasion.
"The Income Tax Department carried out search and survey operations on three groups at 20 premises in Jaipur, six in Kota, eight in Delhi and nine in Mumbai," the CBDT said in a statement issued late night.
The CBDT is the policy-making body for the tax department.
"Several incriminating evidences in the form of loose papers, diaries, digital data have been found that indicate bullion trading in cash, investment of cash in properties among others," it said.
Tax sleuths, officials said, raided premises of Amrapali Jewels, owned by Rajasthan state Congress vice president Rajiv Arora, and Om Metals Infraprojects Limited, whose promoter is believed to be close to Congress leaders in the state.
The timing of the searches, which came amidst an intense power tussle between Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and his deputy Sachin Pilot, was criticised by the ruling Congress.
Premises of senior Congress leader Dharmendra Rathore were also searched.
At least 80 tax sleuths, apart from police officials, took part in the searches, they said.
The CBDT did not name the groups but only stated the reasons for launching the raids.
"One of the groups covered is involved in several business activities like hotel, hydro power projects, metal and auto sectors. It is suspected to have invested unaccounted income generated from these activities into real estate," it said.
The second group, the statement said, is engaged in the business of trading of silver and gold jewellery and antique silver articles and has associate enterprises in various countries like the UK and the USA, as well as having properties and bank accounts in these countries.
"The main allegation against the group is that a substantial part of its silver jewellery business is carried out outside the regular books of accounts," the CBDT said.
The third group, it added, is involved in hotel business.
"The source of investment in the same remains to be verified," it said.
The CBDT said probe in these cases is "in process".
The premises of Om Metals Infraprojects Limited in south Delhi's Saket area and in Rajasthan's Kota were also searched. The company deals in hydro mechanical equipments and was awarded a contract to build a dam in Rajasthan in 2018.
Phone calls and e-mail sent by PTI to the company remained unanswered.
The department also searched a luxury hotel whose one shareholder is RK Sharma, who is stated to have links with Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot's son Vaibhav Gehlot.
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) is also probing Sharma on charges of alleged violation of forex laws related to remittance of over Rs 96 crore from Mauritius and has summoned him under the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) for questioning.
The ED had questioned some people in this case a few days ago, they said.
Senior Congress leader Randeep Surjewala targeted Prime minister Narendra Modi and Union Home minister Amit Shah over the I-T raids on the premises of some people linked to the Congress in Rajasthan.
He alleged that the Income Tax Department, Enforcement Directorate and the Central Bureau of Investigation are the BJP''s frontal departments, but asserted that such raids will not help the party topple the government.
Congress MLAs were holed up Monday in a resort near Jaipur after a legislature party meeting, where they expressed support for Rajasthan Chief Minister Gehlot and only indirectly referred to Sachin Pilot, whose rebellion threatens his government.
Sources said top party leaders, including Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, were also in touch with Pilot, assuring that his grievances will be addressed.