Karnataka: IT raids conducted at office of Ankita Builders and its owner’s residence in Hubballi
While the department is yet to officially issue a statement about the operations, those in the know said cash of more than Rs 40 crore may have been seized from a property belonging to Ashwathamma, a former BBMP corporator and her husband R Ambikapathy, a contractor, in RT Nagar’s Atmananda Colony.
According to sources, multiple properties of contractors were searched on Thursday but the department found cash at Ambikapathy’s property in RT Nagar. On Friday, the department also conducted searches at his other properties and analysis of the seizures was still incomplete.
The money was reportedly stored in more than 20 cardboard boxes in an apartment where the contractor himself did not reside. One source said that the property was rented out by another contractor, but there was no official confirmation about the same.
The searches continued at multiple locations even as of late Friday, and officials from the I-T department TOI spoke with did not wish to comment.
Ambikapathy is the president of one of the two BBMP civil contractor’s associations and the vice-president of the Karnataka State Contractors Association headed by D Kempanna, which had made allegations that the previous government was charging 40% commission on all projects.
He was among the office bearers of the state association who were arrested in December 2022, in connection to a defamation case filed by BJP’s Munirathna. They were later released on bail.
Multiple BJP MLAs and former chief minister HD Kumaraswamy on Friday alleged that the money found was part of Congress’ illegal “collection” to fund elections in different states. Deputy chief minister DK Shivakumar refuted allegations and termed the I-T operation “politically motivated”.
I-T searches: HDK, Ashwath Narayan allege poll funding
Former minister CN Ashwath Narayan and former chief minister HD Kumaraswamy on Friday used the I-T search and seizure operations against contractors to level fresh allegations against the Congress. Narayan is from BJP, which has stitched a pre-poll alliance with Kumaraswamy’s JD(S) for the Lok Sabha elections in 2024.
“More than Rs 40 crore illegal money was found in the house of the person who falsely accused the BJP government of 40% corruption. Rs 42 crore has been seized from the house of a member of this self-proclaimed corruption-free government within four months of the government being formed,” Narayan said.
Asking chief minister Siddaramaiah to reveal the background of this “illegal money collected by his party’s collection agents”, Narayan said: “In how many places have collection centres been created to fund panchayat elections?” He alleged that the Congress was converting Karnataka into an “ATM” for poll funding.
He further said that when the BJP was in the government, there were no instances of such money being collected by anybody. “There were only baseless allegations with no evidence. Our MLA Munirathna had also filed a defamation case against people, including Ambikapathy in whose house I-T department has found money now. The contractors have suffered more after the Congress formed the government,” he said.
Kumarawamy, on the other hand, said: “Close on the heels of select BBMP releasing Rs 650 crore to select contractors, I-T authorities have seized Rs 42 crore, which proves that collection has been happening. So, what percentage does this amount to and who are the people behind it?”
“It is reported that this money, which was filled in 23 boxes, was going to the neighbouring Telangana. It is true that this money was collected for elections there. Another information is that this collection is linked to ‘Bangalore Cash Development Authority’,” he said.
BJP’s Nalin Kumar Kateel, echoing Kumaraswamy’s allegations that the I-T operation coming in the backdrop of BBMP releasing Rs 650 crore, rejected allegations that his party was using the income tax department to target people. “The department works on specific information,” he said.
IT raids politically motivated:DK Shivakumar
Deputy chief minister (DCM) DK Shivakumar, who has accused the governing party at the Centre of using the income tax department to target its political opponents several times in the past, on Friday said: “There is no I-T raid in the country without political motive”.
He spoke to reporters near his Sadashivanagar residence hours after news about simultaneous I-T search and seizure operations in the city came to light.
Reacting to former minister CN Ashwath Narayan’s allegations that the money found by the I-T sleuths was meant for funding upcoming elections in five states, he said he wouldn’t respond to “random statements”.
On allegations that the said money was commission received for Rs 650 crore grant released by the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), the Bengaluru development minister, said: “I am not aware of this.”
Minister Satish Jarkhiholi, responding to BJP MLA Munirathna’s allegation that the contractor at whose property the money was found could not have earned that much and that the contractor association has become a Congress collection agent, said: “…The country has seen around 500 raids since BJP came formed the government at the Centre, how can you connect the Congress to it?”
Kempanna, president, Karnataka State Contractors Association, who on Friday urged the government to release at least 50% of the pending bills of the Rs 20,000 crore, said R Ambikapathy, from whose property the I-T department reportedly seized cash in multiple carton boxes, had not indulged in contract work for several years.
Shivakumar, reacting to Kempanna’s statement about contractors’ distress and demand that the government clear a portion of the pending bills which are being investigated by the government, said: “Kempanna need not worry about bill payment. He can always discuss concerns with us. We will provide justice and nearly three-quarters of the money will be released before the [investigation] report comes out.”