Is Amit Shah the Big Fish behind Mahesh Shah’s Record Disclosures, asks former CM Sureshbhai Mehta

Former BJP chief minister Sureshbhai Mehta told Sabrangindia that Mahesh Shah, the man who made mysteriously high disclosures of  Rs 13,800 crore in cash under the IDS , was a man with free access to the CMO in the past; Delhi CM, Arvind Kejriwal has further demanded that Amit Shah respond to the allegations

Amit shah Mahesh Shah 

The story of a little-known businessman who had declared a record Rs 13,860 crore under the Centre's income disclosure scheme that re-surfaced in a television studio on Saturday (December 3) evening and claimed he had been fronting for politicians and industrialists gets murkier and even more interesting.
Former chief minister of Gujarat, Sureshbhai Mehta has today stated that the businessman had free access to the CMO when Narendra Modi was chief minister of the state and Hardik Patel has also alleged that ‘the main main face behind Mahesh Shah, the man who disclosed the record amount under the government's Income Disclosure Scheme, is `General Dyer', referring to the BJP President. 

In a scene reminiscent of Hollywood or Bollywood, minutes after his stunning declaration, he was whisked away from the studio by tax officials and police and taken to a police station. Hours before Mahesh had surfaced, Suresh Mehta, a former Gujarat chief minister who has left the BJP, alleged the businessman was close to Narendra Modi and Amit Shah. Speaking to Sabrangindia, former Gujarat chief minister confirmed that Mahesh Shah had close access to the chief minister’s office when Narendra Modi was chief minister around 2006-2007.  Mehta, also alleged that Mahesh used to arrange the auction of the gifts Modi received when he was Gujarat chief minister. The money went into government welfare schemes. When one particular auction flopped, Mehta claimed, Mahesh himself bought all the items and then was reimbursed by the Ahmedabad District Cooperative Bank. Amit Shah was the bank's chairman till 2003 and continues to be one of the directors, Mehta said.

Immediately, following these sensational disclosures, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal demanded a probe against BJP President Amit Shah following allegations that he may have used a Gujarat property dealer as a front to disclose unaccounted Rs 13,860 crore under a tax amnesty scheme.“Amit shah should respond to Hardik Patel's allegations. Very serious! It should be investigated,“ the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader tweeted.

Mahesh Shah, the Ahmedabad-based businessman who had earlier been reported missing, said: "The money I declared belongs to politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen whose names I will reveal to income-tax officials." Mahesh, 67, said he had declared the income as his own for a commission. "I admit my mistake, which I should not have done," he added.

Mahesh Shah had first disappeared just before income-tax authorities searched his premises and those of his chartered accountant last month. He told the TV channel today that he had fled to Mumbai because he realised he would not be able to pay the first instalment of his taxes (following the black money disclosure) as some of the politicians had backed out."The income-tax department too suspected that I was involved in money-laundering," he said. "I was scared. But now I have decided to reveal all."

Mahesh, accompanied by his chartered accountant Tehmul Sethna, had told income tax authorities on September 30 – the last day of the disclosure scheme – that he had Rs 13,860 crore in cash lying at several places in Gujarat and elsewhere. He was supposed to pay a 45 per cent tax – that is, Rs 6,237 crore – of which he had to pay the first instalment of Rs 1,560 crore by November 30.But, sources said, the income-tax department suspected that Mahesh did not have the cash and that his declaration may have been a ploy to launder money after the demonetisation on some people's behalf – a theory that presupposes he and his alleged clients knew about the move beforehand.

The department cancelled his "Form No. 2" through which he was to make the payment and searched his premises as well as those of a relative and Sethna. Chartered accountant Sethna has told sections of the media that he had had no reason to doubt his client's claim about the black money in his possession. "He (Mahesh) is sharp and intelligent; he is well-connected and knows influential people. He used to do high-value deals in Gujarat and Maharashtra," Sethna said, without elaborating. Sethna said he had known Mahesh since 2013. The chartered accountant claims his clients include ministers and bureaucrats whom he helps invest their money.

The state BJP has, however, predictably, dismissed Mehta's claim. "The party has nothing to do with him (Mahesh Shah). No one in the party knows him," BJP spokesperson Bharat Pandya told the media. Ajay Patel, the cooperative bank's current chairman, told this newspaper he did not remember having paid anyone for any auctioned-off gifts that Modi had earlier received as chief minister.

BJP spokesperson Pandya said that neither Mahesh nor any other private individual had ever been involved in these auctions, which were always organised and conducted by district collectors.A senior BJP politician said Mahesh was "a nonentity" who showed an annual income of Rs 2-3 lakh in his tax returns, and that he was not known well enough in the real estate business to which he is supposed to belong."Clearly, he was a front for some people who were using him to convert their black money into white," the politician said.

He said Mahesh was not a BJP functionary but had been doing "efficient liaison work" between the state government and "an advertising firm and some other people" for many years."That was his unique selling point," he said, adding that he had often seen the unassuming businessman in the corridors of power in Gandhinagar. But Pandya, the BJP spokesperson, denied that Mahesh had done any liaising for the state government.



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