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Sunday, May 26, 2024

Kerala-based shady businesspersons being raided

An Income Tax department investigation wing raided the offices and residences of shady ‘businessman’ Faris Abubacker in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, and Karnataka. Investigation Wing officers from Kochi and Chennai took part in the raid and seized documents and electronic devices. Faris’s offices in Chennai and Kochi and his home in Koyilandy near Kozhikode were raided.

Latest reports suggest that Faris will face an Enforcement Directorate (ED) investigation. ED will investigate the land dealings of Faris following the information about black money transactions. The ED will also probe the companies registered by Faris. The income tax department has found that Faris-owned companies have acquired land banks in many places, including Kochi, through middlemen.

Former MLA P C George accused Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan of protecting Faris, allegedly a relative of Vijayan’s son-in-law and Public Works Department Minister Mohammad Riyaz. George had accused Faris and Riyaz of controlling Vijayan by managing his illegal investments.

Simultaneously, the Income-tax team also raided the office of Shoba Developers in Thrissur and Bengaluru. These raids are part of an investigation into alleged tax fraud and black money laundering using real estate acquisitions by Faris and his Benamis. Both raids began simultaneously around 8 am on Monday. 

After a preliminary investigation into Faris’s commercial activity, the Income Tax agency found that Faris has shares in 92 businesses operating nationwide. The income tax department initially found that one hundred crores of black money had arrived as investments from abroad. Faris has land deals in various places using these alleged paper companies. It is also unclear who the investors of many companies are.

Allegedly, Faris used his influence and bought land which has restrictions on construction, including wetlands, at a low price. These properties were landfilled and handed over to big companies. Financial transactions were conducted abroad. Investigating agencies have found that large-scale tax evasion has been done by conducting transactions abroad.

Faris registered land to avoid paying taxes under the names of numerous companies run by NRIs. Some land deals involved overseas financial settlements. The Income Tax Department also suspects political investment in the companies. While registering, the bare minimum land value was noted in the paperwork. Using this scheme, a sizable sum of tax has been allegedly avoided. 

A summons to appear has been issued for Faris. He is yet to respond after being asked to show up for questioning. The New Indian Express reported that even after numerous attempts, officers could not contact him. Does this mean that Faris is absconding?

While his family members maintained Faris was in Chennai, his Chennai office workers claimed that the controversial businessman was in London. Income Tax officers sent an email directing Faris to appear for questioning. He has to be interrogated in detail to get an accurate picture of the land procured across Bharat. 

George wanted the Chief Minister’s daughter Veena Vijayan’s company’s financial source to be investigated. He also alleged that Vijayan’s financial transactions were done through Veena’s company. Faris has been influencing and controlling all the investments and political moves of Pinarayi Vijayan for the past ten years since 2012.

In 2016 it was focused on Chennai, but now it is concentrated in America. Therefore, George demanded that the Chief Minister’s continued visit to the US and American relations be investigated.

Faris attended the three weddings of Pinarayi’s two children. In 2009, the Kozhikode seat was seized from M P Veerendra Kumar (Loktantrik Janata Dal and communist ally) on the instructions of Faris. Mohammad Riyaz contested there, and Kumar alleged it was a ‘payment seat.’

Faris was born in a business family in Nandi near Koyilandy in the Kozhikode district. He attended a local school and graduated from Farooq College, Kozhikode. Incidentally, Vijayan’s son-in-law Riyaz too attended the same college.

After graduation, Faris helped his father, Mundail Abu Bakar, who was involved in a small-scale leather goods business in Chennai. Faris climbed the financial ladder quickly. By the time he was just 27-28 years old, he had allegedly become a millionaire.

Faris argued that none of this was made through fraud or embezzlement but was collected by doing business legally. But even today, not many people know what his exports were and who his partners were in real estate. Then and now, Faris is a rare presence in the media and public events.

Faris was in the news over allegations regarding his association with CPM leaders in Kerala. Earlier, the opposition had alleged that Vijayan was closely associated with the controversial businessman. Veteran CPM leader and former Kerala CM V S Achuthanandan had termed Faris a ‘despised’ person.

Most businesses to whom the land was sold are considered Benamis of politicians. Following information on the land sale between Faris and the Thrissur-based real estate company, a search was conducted at Shoba Developers’s office.

Earlier, the ED had attached property worth Rs 201 crore in Gurugram of Shobha Developers concerning a money laundering case. Karnataka PCC president D K Shivakumar also had a stake in Sobha Developers, owned by PNC Menon, a Keralite based out of Dubai.

Sobha developers is a real estate company that constructs and develops residential and commercial properties. The company is also involved in money lending in Bengaluru and Karnataka and has an overseas presence in countries like Dubai.

Faris’s father passed away recently, and Vijayan spent several hours at Faris’s Nandi Bazar house. Though Vijayan tried to hide the visit, the information leaked, and videos appeared on social media.

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