Tax officials were at actor Sonu Sood's Mumbai home for the third straight day this morning over an alleged land deal despite widespread criticism from political parties, including the ruling Shiv Sena in Maharashtra and the Aam Aadmi Party, that have questioned the timing of the searches. Raids were carried out at multiple other locations linked to the actor.
The 48-year-old actor, whose philanthropic efforts for those affected by the pandemic have earned huge praise, had recently announced a tie-up with the AAP government in Delhi. He was chosen as the brand ambassador of the government's 'Desh ke Mentor' programme, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said at an event last month.
The collaboration has been linked to the tax searches by the critics, who called it a "witch-hunt".
Sonu Sood, who began his acting career two decades ago, emerged as an icon amid India's fight against Covid as he helped numerous migrants last year who were left stranded after the government announced one of the world's strictest lockdowns. Since then, he has been helping people who are trying to arrange medicines or hospital beds for Covid treatment.
His efforts stood out as other Bollywood actors remained invisible as the country struggled to fight the surge in infections.
Sources say "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.
Also, this is not the first time the actor has been raided. He was among Bollywood personalities raided in 2012 over alleged tax evasion.
Dismissing the link between the AAP tie-up and searches, BJP spokesman on Wednesday said: "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."