Amid a deepening political crisis in Rajasthan where the number 2 leader of the Congress party Sachin Pilot has revolted, over 200 Income Tax (I-T) sleuths raided the residences and properties of two of Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot’s close confidants.
The Enforcement Directorate also conducted raids at several locations in the state, including at a five-star hotel in Jaipur, whose main investor Rathankant Sharma has previously been accused by BJP of aiding money laundering for Gehlot's son Vaibhav.
The Income Tax department carried out searches at over a dozen locations linked to Congress leader Dharamender Rathore as well as jewellery firm owner Rajiv Arora, both of whom are considered close to Gehlot.
Officials said that the raids that are underway in Jaipur, Kota, Delhi, and Mumbai were done after a complaint of tax evasion was made. Under the scanner, they said, are transactions that were made outside the country.
The curious timing of the Income Tax department’s action against Gehlot’s aides has made the Congress accuse the sleuths of acting on the behest of the BJP.
Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala tweeted: “After all, BJP's lawyers came on the field. The Income Tax Department started raids in Jaipur. When will ED arrive?”
The tweet was posted before the news of the ED raids came in.
According to sources, the Enforcement Directorate raids were initiated after it received information about violations of Foreign Management Act 1999 rules “to bring in black money via Mauritius”.
A complaint with the Enforcement Directorate demanding a probe against Vaibhav Gehlot for his alleged role in money laundering was first filed in 2015. The complaint had alleged illegal transactions between a Mauritius-based firm Shivnar Holding Ltd and a local company Triton Hotels and Resorts Private Ltd in which junior Gehlot was A legal advisor.
The Congress is facing a cliffhanger in Rajasthan after the open rebellion by deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot, who on Sunday night claimed that he had the support of 30 MLAs and that Gehlot was leading a minority government in the state.
However, Congress leader Avinash Pande on Monday said 109 MLAs have signed a letter of support to the chief minister, well above the majority mark of 100. The party has issued a whip to all the MLAs, asking them to attend the Congress Legislature Party meeting at 10.30 am.