Uddhav ex-advisor’s flat: I-T says bought via shell firm

In October 2020, Ajoy Mehta bought an apartment in the Samta Cooperative Housing Society, in Mumbai’s upscale Nariman Point, for Rs 5.33 crore from Pune-based Anamitra Properties Pvt Ltd.

Maharashtra Real Estate Regulatory Authority (MahaRERA) Chairman Ajoy Mehta’s apartment in Mumbai has come under the scanner of the Income Tax department, which has alleged that its previous owner was a “shell entity made only for the purpose of holding benami properties”.

Mehta, who was Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray’s principal advisor from July 2020 till his appointment as MahaRERA chairman in February this year, earlier served as Maharashtra Chief Secretary (May 2019 to June 2020) and Mumbai Municipal Commissioner (2015 to 2019).

In October 2020, he bought an apartment in the Samta Cooperative Housing Society, in Mumbai’s upscale Nariman Point, for Rs 5.33 crore from Pune-based Anamitra Properties Pvt Ltd.

On July 7, the tax department issued a showcause notice to Anamitra Properties, saying that the transaction that led to its acquisition of the apartment for Rs 4 crore in May 2009, was “benami” as its two listed shareholders are “people of low means”. Both have also “denied their knowledge of ownership” (of Anamitra Properties), the notice said.

When contacted, Mehta, a 1984-batch IAS officer, told The Indian Express: “It was a proper legal deal following due procedures and I have made the payment as per the prevalent market price. I am a taxpayer and I don’t know where this is coming from.”

In its notice, the tax department said one of the shareholders of Anamitra Properties, Kamesh Nathuni Singh, who holds 99 per cent stake in the company, lives in a chawl in the western suburbs of Mumbai. The second shareholder, Dipesh Ravindra Singh, has shown an income of only Rs 1.71 lakh in his sole tax returns for assessment year 2020-21.

In a statement to the tax department under the Prohibition of Benami Property Transaction Act (PBPT), both Kamesh Nathuni Singh and Dipesh Ravindra Singh said they were “not aware” of purchasing any shares of Anamitra Properties.

“…shareholders have squarely and categorically denied their knowledge of ownership (of Anamitra Properties). Further these are persons of no means with little to show for making transactions involving crores of rupees. Therefore, it is clear their names have been used by some unknown beneficial and real owners to make these transactions,” said the notice issued to Anamitra Properties asking it to show cause why the property should not be deemed benami.

The company has an authorised and paid up capital of Rs 1 lakh each. “The financial profiling of the company reveals that it is not conducting any business and it can be inferred that it is a shell entity made only for the purpose of holding benami properties. So in view of the above, Anamitra Properties Pvt Ltd is treated as a benamidar,” said the notice.

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