Actor Sonu Sood’s offices in Mumbai and a company in Lucknow linked to him were raided by the Income Tax department today, sources said.
Taxmen arrived this afternoon at the premises of the actor, who receives crowds of people seeking help at his doorstep daily.
“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 claimed.
This is not the first time Sonu Sood has been raided. He was among Bollywood personalities raided in 2012 over alleged tax evasion.
Opposition politicians linked today’s raids to the actor’s recent 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.
The 48-year-old actor has been in films for the past two decades but it was his amazing philanthropy during the pandemic that made him a household name.
Sonu Sood won wide praise for his charity work during the pandemic. He organised buses, trains and even flights for migrants desperate to reach home after being stranded by last year’s lockdown. During the second wave in April-May, he organised oxygen for Covid patients and ordered 18 oxygen plants from France, which were sent to various states.
He was dubbed the “messiah” for those who turned to him after the system failed them.
As he became a hero in real life, he was feted by politicians across the country. Though he has never shown any inclination towards politics, speculation ran wild after his meeting with Mr Kejriwal and rumours suggested the actor may contest next year’s Punjab election as an Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) candidate.
The BJP rubbished the charge that the raids were driven by agenda.
“There is no relation to that (the Kejriwal meeting). 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.
Mr Kejriwal tweeted that there were millions of hurdles on the path of truth, but truth always prevailed. “Sonu Sood has the blessings of lakhs of families, whom he had helped during their difficult times,” he tweeted.
Another 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.