New Delhi: Actor Sonu Sood’s premises in Mumbai and a company in Lucknow linked to him were raided by the Income Tax department on Wednesday, sources said.
“A recent deal between Sonu Sood’s company and a Lucknow-based real estate firm is under the scanner. The survey operation has been initiated on allegations of tax evasion on this deal,” sources in the Income Tax department said.
The tax raids come days after the actor’s high-profile meeting with Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who declared him the brand ambassador for his government’s mentorship programme for school students in the capital. After the meeting, Sonu Sood denied any plans for a political debut with Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
Sonu Sood’s humanitarian efforts endeared him to a legion of fans across the country in the past year. The 48-year-old actor won wide praise for his charity work during the pandemic. He organised special flights and buses home for migrants stranded by last year’s lockdown and in April-May, at the peak of the second wave, he organised oxygen for Covid patients.
Though he has never shown any inclination towards politics, speculation ran wild after his meeting with the AAP chief and rumours suggested the actor may contest next year’s Punjab election.
The tax searches were linked by many to the meeting.
“There is no relation to that. Any personality can meet anyone. It is just a search, not a raid. It’s on a tipoff. It’s not necessary that the person who heads the charity has done anything wrong… It must be something at the lower level. Income Tax is an independent department, which has its own protocol. It is doing its job,” Asif Bhamla, BJP spokesman, said.
But the BJP’s critics expressed outrage at the raids.
Kejriwal tweeted that there are millions of difficulties on the path of truth, but truth always prevails. “Sonu Sood has the blessings of lakhs of families, whom he had helped during their difficult times,” he said.
AAP leader Raghav Chaddha said: “An IT raid on a man as upright as Sonu Sood, somebody who has been called a messiah by lakhs of people, somebody who helped the downtrodden. If a man like him can be politically targeted in a well thought out witch-hunt shows that the current regime is insensitive and politically insecure.”
The BJP’s former ally Shiv Sena was also critical of the tax searches.
“I am shocked. The way Sonu Sood has helped lakhs of people, for tax people to search his properties… I don’t think he can do anything illegal,” said Anand Dubey, Shiv Sena leader.