On Thursday, the Income Tax Department raided premises linked to filmmaker Anurag Kashyap and actress Taapsee Pannu.
The searches, part of a tax evasion probe against Phantom Films, were carried out across 28 locations in Mumbai and Pune. Properties linked with Reliance Entertainment group CEO Shibhasish Sarkar and some executives of celebrity and talent management companies KWAN and Exceed were also raided.
Phantom Films was founded by Anurag Kashyap, director Vikramaditya Motwane, producer Madhu Mantena and former head of UTV Spotboy Vikas Bahl in 2011 and dissolved in October 2018.
Income Tax officials have claimed that they found discrepancy, manipulation in income worth Rs 650 crore. According to the tax sleuths, evidence related to manipulation and under-valuation of share transactions of Phantom Films amongst the film directors and shareholders, have tax implication of about Rs 350 crore. Evidence of cash receipts by a top actress amounts to Rs 5 crore has also been unearthed.
Both Pannu and Kashyap, who are shooting in Pune, were also questioned by the income tax officials.
Opposition political parties in the country and netizens of certain ideological orientations slammed the raids and termed them as vendetta against the filmmaker who has been vocal against the Narendra Modi government at the Centre since 2014.
However, now it has come to light that Kashyap was also charged for tax evasion in 2013 when the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) was in power at Centre. The Service Tax department had then held him guilty for evasion of tax worth Rs 55 lakh.
His accounts were also sealed after he had failed to appear before the officials despite several summons.
After this revelation, which was in a public forum, a host of people on social media claimed that Kashyap is a habitual offender and the current tax raids are not about vendetta.
It is now becoming clearer that Kashyap and Pannu are not being investigated because of their ideological orientation or because they are being critical of the Modi government.
What the Ministry of Finance statement said
A day after the Income Tax Department conducted searches in Mumbai, the government said search and survey operations are being carried out on ‘two leading film production companies, a leading actress and two talent management companies’.
‘Search operation is being carried out at Mumbai, Pune, Delhi and Hyderabad. The group is mainly engaged in the business of Production of Motion Pictures, Web Series, acting, direction and talent Management of celebrities and other artists. A total of 28 premises are being covered in different locations which includes residences and offices,’ said a Ministry of Finance statement, without naming anyone.
‘During the search, evidence of huge suppression of income by the leading film production house compared to the actual box office collections has been unearthed. The company officials have not been able to explain the discrepancy of around Rs 300 crore,’ the statement added.
‘Evidence of cash receipts by the leading actress amounting to Rs 5 crore has been recovered. Further investigation is going on. Apart from this, non-genuine/bogus expenditure to related concerns by the leading producers/directors having tax implication of about Rs 20 crore has been detected,’ the MoF statement said.
‘Similar findings have been made in the case of the leading actress also. At the office premise of the two talent management companies, huge amount of digital data has been seized in the form of emails, whatsapp chats, hard disk etc which are under investigation. During the search, 7 bank lockers have been found which have been placed under restraint. Search is continuing in all the premises,’ said the statement.