Just days after Income Tax officials raided the office(s) and residential premises of former TV 18 promoter and current owner of The Quint, Raghav Bahl, new evidence(s) and allegations of tax evasion as well as money laundering have surfaced against him.
Newslaundry had earlier reported how Bahl had allegedly made ₹114 crore out of an investment of ₹3.03 crore made in a penny stock company called PMC Fincorp that was promoted by a certain Raj Kumar Modi in 2011. IT officials that Newslaundry spoke with at the time had also alleged that herein lies a matter of tax evasion in the name of long-term capital gains.
Now, IT officials claim that foremost among new evidence unearthed by them to support their earlier suspicions is a statement given by none other than Raj Kumar Modi, managing director of PMC FinCorp, a shell company in which Raghav Bahl had invested his money. Modi alleged in his statement that Bahl had converted unaccounted black money/cash to cheque—without paying any taxes—by booking Long Term Capital Gain (LTCG) of more than ₹100 crore in PMC Fincorp.
IT officials are now further corroborating Modi’s statement and are likely to quiz Bahl soon on the issue.
Here is how things played out, according to Modi: Raghav Bahl had bought 13.2 lakh shares of PMC FinCorp back in 2012, at the rate of ₹5.50/share, via cheque. In spite of PMC Fincorp not indulging in any sort of trade activity, the price of the shares shot up to ₹848/share in the next two years. Bahl then offloaded (i.e. sold) the majority of his shares to seven Kolkata-based “paper companies” that are owned by Modi.
According to Modi’s statement given to IT officials, Bahl’s chartered accountant Mohan Lal had given Modi ₹100 crore in cash “to convert into white”. It was allegedly this ₹100 crore that was used by Modi’s Kolkata-based shell companies to buy shares of PMC FinCorp at jacked-up prices from Bahl.
Modi, in his statement of oath given to IT officials in New Delhi on October 11, 2018, alleges that Raghav Bahl had booked bogus LTCG of more than ₹100 crore in PMC FinCorp. Modi’s commission/cut was 1.5 per cent of the entire converted amount, i.e ₹1.5 crore.
“I remember Ritu Kapur and Raghav Bahl got ₹100 crore converted,’’ Modi stated. “The financials of the company have no correlation with the movement in share prices. With respect to the sharp rise in prices, I would like to state that prices of the shares have been rigged for purpose of bogus long-term capital gain. My net earnings were 1.5 per cent of the amount converted to white money from black.’’
Modi’s statement, seen by Newslaundry, then elaborates how he came in contact with Raghav Bahl. He stated that Raghav Bahl and Ritu Kapur first appeared as shareholders in PMC Fincorp in 2009, when Bahl had “desired to avail bogus LTCG through his CA Mohan Lal.” Modi stated: “Then, I asked a person/broker/sub-broker, who had taken money in cheque from Raghav Bahl, to arrange the bills of share transfer from above 8 companies to Raghav Bahl and Ritu Kapur. The name of the person I will submit in two days.”
Besides PMC Fincorp, the other seven companies are Economy Suppliers Pvt Ltd, Seabird Vincon Private Ltd, Seabird Retail Private Ltd, Embassy Sales Pvt Ltd, Famous Investment Cons Pvt Limited, Rolex Vinimay Pvt Ltd, and Seabird Distributors Pvt Ltd. These seven companies are Kolkata-based shell companies. One Navneet Singhania is the director in each of these companies owned by Modi. Both of them have also admitted that they are actually entry operators for all practical purposes besides their position as directors in these companies. The previous story reported by Newslaundry had stated that the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) had suspended the registration of 300 such dubious companies back in 2016.
The money taken in cheque by the person/broker/sub-broker that Modi is referring to was for the purchase of 13.20 lakh shares of PMC Fincorp at ₹5.50/ share.
According to sources, in March 2012, Raghav Bahl purchased 13.20 lakh shares of PMC Fincorp at ₹5.50/share and then sold these shares between September 2013 and March 2014 at the rate of ₹848 per share—a growth rate of nearly 15,318.18 per cent.
However, the question that arises is: Who purchased the shares of such a bogus and penny stock company? Turns out, it was Bahl’s own money (₹100 crore)—that he had allegedly provided via his chartered accountant to Modi—which was being used to purchase these shares. Modi had layered back the cash he had received from Bahl for the purpose of bogus LTCG to the seven Kolkata-based companies (the eighth one being PMC Fincorp) to purchase the shares of PMC Fincorp from Bahl. Thus, Bahl got his cash back as white money, Modi alleged.
While being interrogated by IT officials, Modi also said that the shares of PMC Fincorp were listed on the Kanpur Stock Exchange from 1985. “The company was acquired by me in 2003. The shares of PMC Fincorp were held by me and my family (21 per cent), by companies managed by me (20-22 per cent) and remaining were held by the general public. The company got listed on the BSE in 2012.”
It is important to note that IT officials had also recorded the statement of the other entry operator Navneet Kumar Singhania in Kolkata on April 21, 2015. In it, Singhania clearly states that the companies handled by him were “paper companies”. When asked what kind of work he did as an entry operator and what the companies—where he was appointed as director—did, Singhania answered: “I worked as an entry operator to adjusting the fund and getting a commission on it. Various kind of works like collecting and delivering cash from various parties, depositing and withdrawing cash from various accounts. These companies are not doing any real work as these are paper companies doing work of Jama Karchi/accommodation entry.”
Singhania had also stated that he had eight to 10 employees working under him and that the books of accounts, chequebooks and other documents of the company were with him.
In an order dated October 12, 2018, SEBI had also imposed monetary fines on all three shell companies—Economy Suppliers Private Limited, Seabird Retails Private Limited and Seabird Distributors Private Limited—who were shareholders in PMC Fincorp. Navneet Singhania is a director in all three of the companies. The three shell companies were fined a penalty of ₹1 lakh, ₹3 lakh and ₹3 lakh respectively.
The SEBI order in the matter of PMC Fincorp stated: “During the examination, in the scrip of PMC Fincorp Limited, a company listed on the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE), Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) observed that during the period March 2012 to August 2014 there was a change in shareholding of Economy Suppliers Private Limited, Embassy Sales Private Limited, Seabird Retails Private Limited and Seabird Distributors Private Limited in the Company.
“Based on the information provided by BSE, SEBI observed that the change in the shareholding of the Noticees in the Company had triggered their obligations to make disclosures to the Company and BSE in terms of the provisions of SEBI (Prohibition of Insider Trading) Regulations, 1992, and SEBI (Substantial Acquisition of Shares and Takeover) Regulations, 2011.”
Newslaundry reached out to Raghav Bahl and Ritu Kapur multiple times for comment but received no response. The story will be updated if and when they respond.