The Income Tax department has attached half-a-dozen land parcels in Uttar Pradesh’s Prayagraj district, being held by a BPL card holder security guard, as part of its action against dead gangster-politician Atiq Ahmad whose family and gang is considered beneficiary of several “benami” properties worth crores of rupees.
This is the first action undertaken by the department’s benami prohibition unit (BPU) located in state capital Lucknow against Atiq Ahmad’s empire as part of a comprehensive investigation under the anti-benami law against his family and gang members.
It was detected by the I-T authorities that a number of such lands and other immovable assets were held by people with “very limited means” and the funds being generated through these sales were purportedly being channelised for the requirement of Atiq Ahmad’s family even after his death, official sources said.
Atiq Ahmad (60) and his brother Khalid Azim alias Ashraf were shot dead by three attackers in April when they were being taken for a health checkup by police in Prayagraj.
The I-T department, as per official records accessed by PTI, has identified a man named Suraj Pal, a resident of Pipalgaon in Prayagraj district as the ‘benamidar’ (in whose name a benami property is standing) of more than 40 land assets of Atiq Ahmad and his gang.
Benami means ‘no name’ or ‘without name’ and such properties are those in which the real beneficiary is not the one in whose name the property has been purchased.
Pal is stated to be a security guard of Atiq Ahmad’s dead brother’s (Khalid Azim alias Ashraf) relative Mohammad Ashraf and as per the taxman’s findings, he holds a below poverty line (BPL) ration card.
The I-T department called the “alleged chowkidar or security guard” for questioning since late 2019 but after he did not depose, it issued an order this week to provisionally attach six land parcels located in Prayagraj which have been valued at more than Rs 4.3 crore in total.
An analysis of Suraj Pal’s income tax returns (ITRs) found the income and assets of this person who had a “very meagre income” grew from Rs 40 lakh to Rs 6.16 crore in five years between 2018-19 and 2022-23.
The order has been issued under section 24(3) of the Prohibition of Benami Property Transaction Act, 1988 after the department found Pal was allegedly disposing off and selling these properties at an “astronomical pace”.
The department suspects Atiq Ahmad, his family and his associates, including Mohammad Ashraf, as the beneficial owners of these assets.
The tax department undertook an extensive mining of records in the databases the UP Police, UP Inspector General of Registration and Stamp and the I-T department to find the linkages of the security guard with Atiq Ahmad’s family and gang members.
It was found that apart from family ties, Mohammad Ashraf (security guard Pal’s employer) had a “long history” of alleged indulgence in serious crimes and was named with Atiq Ahmad in multiple police FIRs.
Mohammad Ashraf and his father-in-law Mohammad Rafiq alias Gulful were also the co-accused in the police case of abduction of Umesh Pal, the prime witness in the murder case of MLA Raju Pal case, in which Atiq Ahmad and his brother Khalid Azim alias Ashraf were the main accused.
These facts led the department to frame the benami case and establishing that these assets held by the security guard are linked to Atiq Ahmad and his empire and that there was “close relationship” between the dead gangster-politician and Mohammad Ashraf.
The department is understood to have approached the Uttar Pradesh registrar of lands and properties with a notice that this order against Pal bars any kind of transfer, conversion, disposition or movement of the attached assets and that it will soon submit the case for final attachment of these assets.
This is the second major action by the I-T department’s anti-benami unit in Uttar Pradesh after it identified around two dozen assets worth about Rs 100 crore linked to another gangster-politician Mukhtar Ansari as it attached a Rs 12 crore worth land in Ghazipur district early this year as part of a comprehensive action against him and his associates, code named ‘operation panther’.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by String Reveals staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)