Raids on Lalit hotels group, promoter unearth Rs 1,000-crore foreign assets

Raids on Lalit hotels group, promoter unearth Rs 1,000-crore foreign assets

Jyotsna Suri, CMD, Bharat Hotels Group. File photo

New Delhi, January 24

The Income Tax Department’s searches on the Bharat Hotels Group that runs a chain of luxury units under the Lalit hotels brand has led to the detection of “undisclosed” foreign assets of over Rs 1,000 crore and huge black money that the business house has “stashed” abroad, the CBDT said on Friday.

While the policy-making body of the department did not take any names in the statement, official sources confirmed it to be the Bharat Hotels Group that functions under its Chief Managing Director (CMD) Jyotsna Suri.

The department had launched raids on 13 premises of the group, Suri, and others on January 19 in and around Delhi.

“The investigation has successfully lifted the veil leading to detection of undisclosed foreign assets of more than Rs 1,000 crore, apart from domestic tax evasion of more than Rs 35 crore, which may lead to consequences under the Black Money Act, 2015, as also, action under the I-T Act, respectively,” the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) said.

“Foreign assets include investment in a hotel in the UK, immovable properties in the UK and the UAE and deposits with foreign banks,” it said.

The CBDT said the group is a “leading member of the hospitality industry, running a hotel abroad and a chain of luxury hotels under a prominent brand name situated at various locations in India”.

“The search operation has so far resulted in seizure of unaccounted assets valued at Rs 24.93 crore that includes Rs 71.5 lakh in cash, jewellery worth Rs 23 crore and expensive watches valued at Rs 1.2 crore,” the statement said.

The Bharat Hotels Group owns the chain of Lalit hotels in the country. It runs over a dozen such luxury facilities at present.

Jyotsna Suri has been associated with the Bharat Hotels Group since 1989 and took over as the CMD  in 2006 after the death of her husband and hotelier Lalit Suri.

The CBDT said evidence “seized” during the search reveals that a large amount of black money was stashed abroad by the group through the mechanism of trusts formed in the early 1990s in tax haven countries.

Such foreign holdings of the main persons have remained hidden for decades beneath complex multi-layered structures, located in different countries, ensuring secrecy, it said.

“Search action revealed that one of the close relatives of the promoter family was intentionally introduced as a front to ostensibly escape the provisions of the domestic tax laws,” the statement said.

As per information provided on the website of the group “all hotels within the group operated under the brand The Grand-Hotels, Palaces and Resorts”.

“It was re-branded as ‘The LaLiT’ on November 19, 2008 as a tribute to the company’s Founder Chairman Lalit Suri.”       

The company, the web portal information said, offers 12 luxury hotels, places and resorts and two mid-market segment hotels under The LaLiT Traveller brand offering 2,261 rooms.

“In addition, we also hold the exclusive management rights to operate hotel in London offering 70 rooms,” it said. PTI

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