The department concluded that Pune-based businessman Avinash Bhosale was the ‘beneficial owner’ of the flat, the sources said.
The I-T department probe found that the seller, Anamitra Properties Pvt Ltd, was a shell company floated by Bhosale to ‘hold’ the ‘benami asset’ (the flat), which he subsequently sold to ‘old acquaintance’ Mehta, the sources added.
According to a valuation report, the fair market value of the property has been pegged at Rs 10.62 crore as of October 2020 when the sale took place. Mehta had bought the flat for Rs 5.33 crore.
Mehta, however, told ET that it was a bona fide purchase.
“I have purchased it with my life savings of 35 years. As far as the market rate is concerned, it was bought at a price higher than the legally government determined market rate,” he said.
According to the sources, the probe revealed that during the purchase of the flat in 2009 the shell company took an unsecured loan from Indiabulls Financial Services Ltd (IBFSL) ‘under the instructions of Bhosale’ to pay both the consideration and stamp duty, thereby hiking the loan-to-value (LTV) ratio to over 100%.
The department found that in the financial year 2009-10, Bhosale allegedly paid unaccounted cash of around Rs 15.20 crore to Indiabulls and received unaccounted money of Rs 1.7 crore. Bhosale used this cash to purchase the south Mumbai property.
The flat was then leased to Indiabulls and a security deposit of Rs 6 crore was used to pay the loan to IBFSL. However, the security deposit was paid from the proceeds of the sale of the flat to Mehta in 2020, despite the termination of an agreement between the Indiabulls subsidiary and Anamitra Properties in 2018.
Bhosale and Mehta were issued a show cause notice under Section 54 A of the Act and asked to give evidence and appear in person, but they never presented themselves before the probe officer (initiating officer, in this case). They, however, provided submissions in the case.
Avinash Bhosale’s construction firm ABIL group did not respond to ET’s email till press time Sunday.
A spokesperson for Indiabulls said that the “hypothesis mentioned around the purchase of property and cash etc. is completely erroneous and baseless.”
The property was mortgaged to the company in 2008 and a loan of Rs 4.35 crore was given against the mortgaged property at an interest rate of 18% per annum. The entire loan with interest was fully repaid in 2011 and the mortgaged property was released after receiving the full loan amount, the spokesperson added.
Deal gone wrong
According to the documents with the Registrar of Companies (RoC) that ET has accessed, Anamitra Properties was incorporated in 2008 by Nikhil Gokhale and Vivek Nagarkar as directors and 50% shareholders.
In May 2009, Anamitra Properties bought the flat in Samata CHS in Nariman Point for Rs 4 crore. The finance was provided through a loan of Rs 4.35 crore availed from IBFSL.
“The loan was taken from IBFSL under the instruction of Bhosale”, the probe revealed.
In 2009, the property was given on lease to Indiabulls Real Estate Ltd for a monthly rent of Rs 2.01 lakh and nil security deposit. In 2010, the flat was rented out to Lucina Land Development Ltd (a subsidiary of Indiabulls Real Estate) for a monthly rent of Rs 5,000 and security deposit of Rs 6 crore. In the same year, the loan of Rs 5.82 crore was paid through the security deposit. In October 2020, when the property was sold to Mehta, the security deposit of Rs 5.30 crore was paid back to Lucina Land Development Ltd (LLDL). The interest-free deposit continued as interest-free advance till financial year 2019-20.
This, despite an agreement between LLDL and Anamitra Properties stating that in the event Anamitra Properties failed to refund the interest-free security deposit, the latter was liable to pay an interest of 18% on the amount of unpaid security deposit.
However, the security deposits were paid in two instalments after the termination of the order in 2018. Despite this, LLDL never tried to get the security deposit back immediately after the termination of the agreement. No interest was sought despite the same running into crores, the probe found.
The probe found that during the FY 2009-10, Bhosale paid unaccounted cash to the tune of Rs 15.20 crore to Indiabulls group and received unaccounted cash to the tune of Rs 1.7 crore from the group.
This cash was ‘disguised as loan’ given by Anamitra Properties.
Moreover, the rent received of Rs 21,70,800 in December 2009 was given back to another Indiabulls group company, Indiabulls Properties, in the same month.
Nikhil Gokhale, who is a nephew of Bhosale and director in over 35 companies of the ABIL group, was neither a director or shareholder of Anamitra Properties between March 2018 and October 2020, but still held shares in the company.
On October 8, 2020, when the sale deed was executed between Mehta and Anamitra Properties, Gokhale was again made the director, days before the sale and he represented the company.
The probe identified him as the ‘benamidar’ holding the share certificate of the flat for the benefit of the beneficial owner, Avinash Bhosale.
In its reply to the I-T department’s show cause notice, Anamitra Properties claimed that the law had been applied retrospectively. It also argued that the initiating officer has not been able to establish either of the two limbs of the benami transaction — consideration having been provided from an alleged beneficial owner or the subject matter property being held for the immediate or future benefit of the alleged beneficial owner.