A viral claim suggests that the Income Tax (IT) department confiscated Rs 100 crore from the residence of the deputy secretary in the Chhattisgarh chief minister’s office, Saumya Chaurasia. A newspaper clipping and an image of stacks of cash and gold have been shared to support the claim. Alt News has received several requests to fact-check the claim on our WhatsApp helpline number (76000 11160) and mobile application.

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Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) supporter Arun Pudur had shared the same earlier in March. He tweeted, “”Income Tax Department raided the house, the officers were stunned to seize 100 crore cash was recovered and more than 30 kg of gold [sic].”

The identical claim was also promoted in Hindi – “ये है #छतीसगढ़ के कांग्रेसी मुख्यमंत्री की उप सचिव #सौम्या_चौरसिया।छत्तीसगढ़ प्रशासनिक सेवा 2008 बैंच की अफसर है।इनकम टैक्स विभाग ने इनके घर छापा मारा तो अधिकारी नगद देख कर हिल गये 100 करोड़ नगद। 25 किलो से अधिक का सोना,अनगिनत प्रॉपर्टी के कागज मिले है।” Below is a tweet by Puneet Pandya whose bio identifies him as former executive member of the BJP.

While the news has been shared as recent, incidentally it was also widespread last year. BJP supporters Ankit Jain and Rishi Bagree shared the claim on March 2, 2020.

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Before we begin to fact-check the primary claim, it must be pointed out that the photograph of stacks of cash and jewellery was found in reports from 2016. According to NDTV, “The Income Tax department on Saturday (December 10, 2016) seized ₹ 5.7 crore cash in new notes, 32 kgs of gold biscuits and jewellery and ₹ 90 lakh worth old notes stashed inside the bathroom tiles of a hawala dealer in Challakere in Karnataka.”

The Economic Times, in another report from 2016, credited the image to PTI.

What was the IT raid involving Saumya Chaurasia?

A photograph of Dainik Bhakar’s report from last year has been shared with the above image. ‘CM’s deputy secretary’s bungalow sealed, Rs 100 crores recovered so far’ reads its headline. The report says that income tax officials from Delhi and Mumbai were on the third day of investigation when they spent 30 hours in chief minister Bhupesh Baghel’s deputy secretary Saumya Chaurasia’s bungalow in Bhilai. The officials sealed her residence and two dozen other properties of prominent individuals. “It is being said that they recovered more than Rs 100 crore cash, jewellery in large quantities, land papers and transaction slips,” according to the report.

However, follow-up reports by Dainik Bhaskar have no mention of the confiscated items. The only other media outlet that reported IT officials found Rs 100 crore cash, jewellery and property documents was The Free Press Journal which does not carry an official statement of the IT department.

Alt News spoke with Chhattisgarh-based senior journalist Alok Putul who is familiar with the case. Putul said that the IT department did not issue any statement which said that cash was recovered from Saumya Chaurasia’s residence. He added that the IT department also raided properties of other prominent individuals and claimed to have found evidence of Benami transactions worth Rs 150 crore.

The Ministry of Finance had issued a press release on March 2, 2020 which said, “On 27.02.2020, Income Tax Department conducted a search on a group of individuals, hawala dealers and businessmen in Raipur… Incriminating documents and electronic data seized during the search show that substantial amount of illegal gratification was being paid to public servants and others every month. Further, daily details of unaccounted sales, bank accounts opened in the names of employees having transactions worth crores and an unaccounted bank account have been found. Details of benami vehicles, hawala transfers, transfer to Kolkata-based companies and creation of shell companies with huge land bank have also been found and seized. Search has also resulted in seizure of substantial amount of cash. The total unaccounted transactions unearthed till date are over Rs. 150 crore and the figure is likely to substantially increase after the seized evidences and leads found during the search are further scrutinized and investigated.”

The press release states that the IT department seized cash but it neither mentions the amount nor the property where the cash was recovered. Moreover, both the cash and the unaccounted transactions of Rs 150 crore pertain to the entire investigation.

CM Bhupesh Baghel had termed the raids “vendetta politics” of the BJP. “The central government is rattled because we have started investigations against people involved in scams during the BJP’s rule,” he said at the time.

The photograph of stacks of cash and jewellery taken after a 2016 raid in Karnataka was also widespread last year and linked to the Chhattisgarh raid. Alt News has attached posts from March 2020 earlier in the report. Vishvas News had investigated the claim last year where it cited a report by Nai Dunia.

According to Nai Dunia, “On Thursday (February 27, 2020), the income tax department arrived in Chhattisgarh. The team raided the Sector-9 bungalow of excise department OSD Arun Pati Tripathi. During the investigation, another team reached the bungalow of Saumya Chaurasia at Surya Residency on Junwani Road.” The report has no mention of any cash confiscated however, it does state that the income tax department found evidence of Benami transactions worth Rs 150 crore.

Vishvas News further quoted Arun Upadhyay, Dainik Jagran’s Raipur editor. Upadhyay informed that the income tax department raided officials, leaders and businessmen in Chhattisgarh since the morning of February 27, 2020. The raids were conducted on 25 properties of 13 individuals. The residence of the chief minister’s deputy secretary Saumya Chaurasia was also raided. “The IT department claimed that during their investigation they found evidence of Benami transactions worth Rs 150 crores…Neither was any picture released by the officials nor was there any news of large quantity of currency notes and gold recovered,” he furthered.

Dainik Bhaskar’s report from last year misquoting the income tax department was shared to promote the false claim that officials confiscated Rs 100 crore cash and jewellery from Chhattisgarh CM’s deputy secretary Saumya Chaurasia’s bungalow.

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About the Author

Pooja Chaudhuri is a senior editor at Alt News.