The Income Tax Department has identified about two dozen 'benami' assets worth ₹127 crore of gangster-turned-politician Mukhtar Ansari in Uttar Pradesh and other locations as part of a "comprehensive" action against him and his associates, sources said Wednesday.
The department's Lucknow benami assets investigation unit on Tuesday attached the first benami property in this case, a land parcel located in Ghazipur district worth about ₹1.29 crore (book value). The market value of this property is about 12 crore, according to an attachment order of the department.
The benamidar (in whose name a benami property is standing) in this case has been identified as an alleged associate and neighbour of Ansari, Ganesh D Mishra while the "beneficial owner" has been named as Ansari in the attachment order.
What does benami mean?
Benami means 'no name' or 'without name' and such properties are those in which the real beneficiary is not the one in whose name the property has been purchased.
The attachment order, issued under the provisions of the Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Amendment Act of 2016, has been passed under the name and seal of Deputy Commissioner of I-T Alok K Singh under Additional Commissioner of the I-T (Benami Prohibition Unit) Dhruvpurari Singh.
The department, the sources said, followed the "documents and money trail" in this case after going through multiple FIRs filed by the UP Police against Ansari, checking land records and numerous bank documents and it was found that Mishra had allegedly furnished a personal bond of Rs 90 lakh and had also pledged his property for a ₹1.60 crore loan taken by a company in which Ansari's wife and son are shareholders.
'Comprehensive' action against Ansari
The sources said the I-T department has launched a "comprehensive" action against Ansari and his associates and has codenamed the operation of identifying his alleged benami assets and finances as 'Operation Panther'.
The department, as per the sources, is in the process of attaching the rest 22 benami properties of Ansari which are estimated to be bearing a market value of over ₹100 crore. Ansari, a five-time former MLA, is lodged in a jail at Banda in Uttar Pradesh.
Apart from the I-T department, he is being investigated by the Enforcement Directorate too on money laundering charges.
Ansari faces as many as 49 criminal cases that have been booked against him and aides on charges of land grabbing, murder and extortion