Black money traced, say IT officials after raids on meat producers & exporters in 3 UP districts

Lucknow: After a slew of raids By the state GST (goods and services) department on traders across Uttar Pradesh earlier this month, teams from the Income Tax (IT) department raided multiple premises linked to meat producers and exporters in at least three districts this past week and claimed to have uncovered “black money” amounting to Rs 1,200 crore.

Following raids on their offices, factories and residences in Lucknow, Bareilly and Unnao since Wednesday, the IT department — which falls under the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) — seized a number of properties associated with said meat exporters and producers.

According to information shared by IT officials, raids were carried out at the premises of Rustam Foods Private Limited in Lucknow and Unnao, and Rehber Food Industries Pvt. Ltd, Al-Sumama Agro Foods Pvt. Ltd and Marya Frozen Agro Food Pvt. Ltd in Bareilly.

Reports quoted IT officials as saying that the raids lasted four days and led them to information about “black money amounting to Rs 1,200 crore”. Officials in the Income Tax department who did not wish to be named said they found evidence of “Rs 1,000 crore” being withdrawn from “dummy bank accounts” during the raids.

ThePrint reached Rustam Foods for comment via call but did not receive a response at the time of publication, while calls to Rehber Food Industries remained unanswered and an employee with the Delhi branch office of Marya Agro refused to comment. This report will be updated when a response is received.

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2018 IT raids, UPPCB action

Owned by Haji Mohammad Saleem Qureshi who is also its MD, Rustam Foods Pvt. Ltd — a prominent meat producer and exporter — has an “abattoir-cum-processing plant” in Unnao’s industrial area, besides an office in Lucknow.

According to it websitethe frozen buffalo meat supplier exports to a host of countries including Algeria, Bangladesh, Congo, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Myanmar, Oman, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, the UAE and Vietnam.

The IT department had January 2018 raided 19 locations linked to Saleem Qureshi in Lucknow, Kanpur, Unnao, Jhansi, Hapur and Mumbai.

Meanwhile, Al-Sumama Agro Foods Pvt. Ltd and Marya Frozen Agro Food Pvt. Ltd are associate firms of Bareilly-based parent group Marya Frozen Agro Food Products Pvt. Ltd which identifies itself as a diversified group engaged in FMCG products including “organic food (including pulses and spices), household care, personal care, ethnic men’s and women’s wear”.

Marya Frozen Agro Food Pvt. Ltd has an abattoir-cum-meat processing plant in Bareilly’s Mohanpur area “with a capacity to slaughter 1,000 animals or to produce and pack 150 tons of assorted products of frozen boneless buffalo meat products per day”. It is registered with the central Agricultural & Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) and has one office in Bareilly and another in Delhi.

“Raids were conducted for three days at the residence of Shakeel Qureshi, chairman of Marya Frozen Agro Food Products Pvt. Ltd and the office of the chartered accountant till Friday,” said a source in the IT department.

Media reports quoted Shakeel Qureshi as saying that his company’s IT returns were filed in accordance with the rules and that a team of the company’s directors and chartered accountants was fully cooperating with the IT department.

Confirming to ThePrint that operations at Marya Food Agro Pvt. Ltd’s abattoir in Bareilly were halted by the UP Pollution Control Board (UPPCB) on 30 November, UPPCB regional officer (Bareilly) Rohit Singh said the action was preceded by complaints about the possibility of the firm resorting to slaughtering more animals in the abattoir than allowed.

“They have a license from the UPPCB to slaughter 300 buffaloes per day but they had taken licenses from the APEDA and food safety department for slaughtering and processing 600 and 800 animals, respectively. This led to complaints about the possibility of the firm allegedly slaughtering more animals than permitted and the state government directed that action be taken,” Singh told ThePrint. He, however, added that the firm approached the Allahabad High Court against the UPPCB’s action earlier this month.

Lastly, Rehber Food Industries Pvt. Ltd — with its office located less than 200 meters from Marya Agro Foods Pvt Ltd in Bareilly’s Civil Lines area — is reportedly engaged in production, processing, and preservation of meat, fish, fruit, vegetables, oils, and fats.

Raids on award-winning leather manufacturer

Between 8 and 13 December, teams of IT sleuths had also raided residences and offices of multinational corporation Rahman Industries’ Nadeem and Kamran Rahman in Kanpur’s Jajmau and Phoolbagh areas, along with their tanneries in Unnao’s Banthar, Akrampur and Singrausi, and units in Noida. Reports at the time had quoted IT officials claiming that they had recovered Rs 60 lakh in cash, along with jewellery, during the raids.

The group owns leather and footwear manufacturing units in India, besides manufacturing facilities in France, South Africa, the UAE and Tunisia, according to its website.

In 2020-21, the Rahman group won the second place in the export award conferred by the Ministry of Commerce’s Council for Leather Exports for the volume of export of its finished leather in the “above Rs 100 crore & up to Rs 200 crore” category. The Council for Leather Exports also awarded Rahman Industries the first position in the Export Excellence Award under the ‘finished leather’ product category during the Financial Year 2020-21.

(Edited by Amrtansh Arora)

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