“After the visit of UAE delegation, Lieutenant Governor-Manoj Sinha claimed that investment in J&K will touch ₹70,000 crores in the next six months, but how and why the entire exercise of Emirati investment in Kashmir was carried out by Bal Krishen”
Debunking the tall claims of the Lieutenant Governor-Manoj Sinha of maintaining ‘Zero Tolerance for Corruption’, a man accused of alleged tax evasion and illegal encroachment is reportedly running the show of foreign investment in Jammu and Kashmir.
According to reports, J&K government had signed an MoU with UAE’s financial services company, ‘Century Financial’ in a bid to strengthen the hospitality and tourism Industry in the union territory. The company is expected to invest $100 million and set up three hotels and one commercial-cum-residential complex in the Union Territory. The MoU was signed in a special event presided by Lieutenant Governor, Manoj Sinha.
However, talking to The Typewriter a senior official privy to the development said that the person managing the entire show, Bal Krishen Rathore, remained on the radar of security and other agencies for his ‘dubious’ and ‘treacherous’ antecedents.
“The background of foreign investment in Jammu and Kashmir is very regrettable, as it appears that the government is trying to accommodate a person with blemished track record just to show that abrogation of Article 370 was a wise decision and it attracted investment,” said senior official, who was part of the entire exercise, early this year.
To instill confidence and familiarize with “growing conducive situation in J&K for investments”, delegates representing as many as 33 companies from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) arrived in Srinagar purportedly to explore investment options in the region.
“Out of 33-member delegates, 13 were Emirati and rest were wealthy Indian expats,” said official, adding “Bal Krishen Rathore, a Dubai-based Jammu origin businessman was the man behind the whole show, who reportedly sponsored the entire programme, even payment for the charter.”
Official said that Bal Krishen has long been a target of different Indian agencies, including Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB).
Confirming the allegations against Bal Krishen Rathore, a senior intelligence officer, wishing anonymity maintained that Rathore is accused of tax evasion as well as illegal construction and encroachment. His handling the affairs of foreign investment in Jammu and Kashmir is surprising, but it cannot be done without the connivance of the administration.
“Couple of days before the abrogation of Article 370, probably in August 2019, officials from GST Intelligence conducted thorough searches at Safa Valley, a project of Rathore’s 8-Boundaries Builders Pvt. Ltd and slapped him with a penalty of 4.5 crores ($600,000) for tax evasion,” he said and added that Directorate General of GST Intelligence (DGGI), Jammu and Kashmir Regional Unit simultaneously carried out searches at Wave Mall and Safa Valley Apartments in Jammu.
He said that during the search operations, many irregularities were found in accounts of developer of Safa valley, which resulted in evasion of GST.
“The developer accepted the irregularities and deposited around Rs 4.5 crore to Government accounts immediately. Further investigations are being carried out to estimate the total evasion,” official said and added that DGGI officers also detected many irregularities, which include wrong GST payments by way of concealed data, irregular input tax credit and some other legal irregularities.
Officer maintained that after two months, in September 2019, the J&K Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) initiated another probe against Rathore for alleged illegal constructions and encroachment upon state land as well as the sale of flats meant for economically weaker sections.
“Anti-Corruption Bureau, Jammu registered a case under FIR No. 8/21 and initiated an inquiry into the allegations of construction and sale of flats meant for economically weaker sections (EWS) in the Sunjwan-Bathindi area of Jammu. The allegations made in a complaint to the ACB suggested that builders of Safa Valley flats had encroached upon state land, including JDA Colony Park near Gujjar-Colony bypass, Jammu, and had also done some construction on it in connivance with government officials,” officer asserted.
He added that in March 2020, the Enforcement Directorate conducted a raid at Rathore’s Jammu offices and premises of his business associates.
“The Enforcement Directorate carried out searches at six places and seized fixed deposits and sovereign gold bonds worth over Rs 25 crore in connection with a foreign exchange violation case against a real estate firm,” the officer said and added that the searches included residential and commercial premises in Jammu belonging to Rajesh Rathore and Mohd. Ashraf Sheikh and their companies in the case related to illegal acquisition of land by a non-resident Indian (NRI).
He shared that during the searches, fixed deposit receipts of Rs 25 crore and sovereign gold bonds of Rs 16 lakh were seized. As per prevailing guidelines under the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA), an NRI cannot purchase sovereign gold bonds, whereas these seized gold bonds were purchased by the NRI by posing himself as a resident of India.
The searches also led to seizure of documents relating to investments in crypto currencies and foreign investments of around Rs 2.5 crore in Dubai by Sheikh, a property dealer and commission agent. The seizure included documents of properties suspected to be purchased out of funds from Dubai.
“During the probe it was found that Rathore, an NRI, had purchased agricultural land and built a multi-storey residential project in the name of Safa Valley through a company named as 8 Boundaries Builders Pvt. Ltd. at Bhatindi in Jammu,” officer said and added that Rathore had infused huge amounts in this company from Dubai for the project in the form of unsecured loans to the company in violation of the FEMA.
Meanwhile, official privy to the development informed that surprisingly things changed in next 10 months and Rathore was playing the major role of protagonist in signing MoU with the J&K government.
“In January 2022, Rathore’s Dubai-based Century Financial signed an MoU with the JK government for making a $100M investment to set up three hotels and one commercial complex in Kashmir. In March 2022, Rathore used his connections in the UAE to bring a mixed delegation of Emiratis (mostly his close friends) and Indian expats to Kashmir,” said official, adding that Ashok Kotecha of BAPS Swaminarayan Temple, Abu Dhabi was also part of the delegation.
“After the visit of UAE delegation, Lieutenant Governor-Manoj Sinha claimed that investment in J&K will touch ₹70,000 crores in the next six months, but how and why the entire exercise of Emirati investment in Kashmir was carried out by Bal Krishen,” revealed official, adding that infact many Emiratis were not happy with the presence of massive security forces and have even expressed their dissatisfaction over barring of their international SIM cards.
Moreover, in its PowerPoint presentation to the UAE delegation, the J&K administration projected Kashmir as the safest place to do business and cited its lowest share in crime rates, but brought shame to the BJP ruled states.
“In showing Kashmir as the safest place, the administration exposed BJP ruled Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, and Gujarat as toppers in the crime chart,” said the officer while sharing images of the PowerPoint presentation.
Admitting that the Enforcement Directorate had conducted raids at the office and other places related to Bal Krishen, a senior officer of Enforcement Directorate said that the case is yet to be finalized and is under investigation.
When asked about any FIR filed in this regard, the officer said that in FEMA cases there are no FIRs, but every FEMA case has an official file number on the basis of which case is pursued. He, however, said that there is a provision of conviction in FEMA cases if the accused fails to file recovery.