The nation got a shocker when Ahmedabad-based realtor Mahesh Shah surfaced on TV to confirm he had declared Rs 13,860 crore and promised to disclose the owners of the money to the income tax department. However, days after that startling revelation, Shah proved to be a tough nut to crack as he is yet to disclose anything substantial, a report said. “We questioned him for nearly 10 hours in two days. He keeps changing his versions and the names of people he is associated with. We can’t force him to reveal information. We are still clueless,” an I-T source told Indian Express. What has emerged instead are details about an argument Shah had with hotel guards in Mumbai before he drove off without settling the bill, two cases of bounced cheques he has faced earlier, and an attempt at disguise in a police uniform for which an officer is being probed. “There is a high probability that he was expecting black money from various people in the country to turn into white, but after his declaration was nullified, those people turned their backs on him,” said an official.
Shah, who will be grilled further, reportedly used at least five cell phones and frequently changed SIM cards, “which he does not explain”. At least one of the phone numbers belongs to a domestic help, I-T sources said. Shah has reportedly told officials that his wife is very ill and that his family was not aware of his massive declaration. Shah himself is said to have suffered heart attacks at least four times. “He doesn’t mix with neighbours. He moved to his house nearly a decade ago but neighbours know very little about him,” said an official.
Originally from Gujarat’s Surendranagar district, Shah’s father Champaklal had moved to Mumbai. A decade ago, Shah returned to Ahmedabad and settled there. During a search of home at Mangal Jyot Society in Ahmedabad, income tax officials found a couple of chits on which were scribbled various amounts, such as Rs 5,000 crore, with names of places such as Mumbai or Ahmedabad. Whether they are of any significance is yet to be substantiated.
Besides, he has apparently been a follower of a religious leader whom I-T sources are yet to identify, smokes an expensive brand of foreign cigarettes, and had been flying to Mumbai, Delhi and Hyderabad at what officials call an “abnormal frequency” in the past several months. Shah did give I-T officials some names associated with him in land deals in Gujarat and Maharashtra, sources said. What he did not provide, they said, was the addresses of these “realtors” in Maharashtra or Gujarat.
The cheque-bounce cases are lodged in Rajkot and Ahmedabad, the sources said. And Satellite police inspector M U Masi is facing an inquiry for disguising Shah in police uniform, apparently to dodge the media.
Shah, 67, and his son, Monitesh, had run a realty firm called Anmol Land Organisers Pvt Ltd starting 2008, IT officials said citing documents. Monitesh, however, has since parted ways with his father for reasons the officials couldn’t specify. Shah came into public focus on December 2 when his chartered accountant Tehmul Sethna, senior partner of Apaji Amin & Co, named him as the person who had declared the staggering amount under IDS. Sethna told the media I-T officials had raided his office and home. Days later, the I-T department nullified the declaration on the suspicion that Shah was involved in money laundering.