At least four private jets stuffed with cash flew to Dimapur in Nagaland days after the Narendra Modi government demonetised high value notes. The flights originated from Hissar, an industrial town in Haryana. Details of the investigation accessed exclusively by HuffPost India point to a daring operation to salvage an illegal stash, perhaps even exploiting the tax exemption status enjoyed by Naga tribes. Investigations are pointing to a Haryana businessman with links to a prominent politician as the likely beneficiary of the move.
Thus far, reports had emerged about one flight that transferred about Rs3.5 crore. That, it now seems, was only one tranche.
According to top officials investigating the flight of currency, the first consignment of cash landed on 12 November. Subsequently similar cash consignments were airlifted on 13 and 14 November. In the first three airlifts, five huge bags, each carrying about Rs3 crore in Rs500 and Rs1,000 notes were shipped, investigations have revealed.
The last cash-lift that was detected happened on 22 November. All the four consignments of cash were airlifted to Dimapur by Haryana based businessmen. "About Rs3.5 crore was airlifted in the last shipment," a top official associated with the investigation said. In all, about Rs18 crore were airlifted from Hissar to Dimapur in the four airlifts.
Curiously, after the cash consignment on 22 November was detected, Dimapur-based businessman Anato Zhimomi--son of former Member of Parliament Hezukhu Khekiho Zhimomi and son-in-law of former Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio--claimed the money.
In a letter to the Police and the Income Tax Department, Anato Zimomi said he had sent Rs5 crore out of Dimapur to buy land in Hissar. He further said in the declaration: "Unfortunately the deal (for the land) could not be done, hence I am deputing Mr Amarjeet Singh to bring back this money/cash Rs3.5 crore to Dimapur." He also claimed that the source of the money was "earned Agricultural Income".
According to one investigator with knowledge of the matter, another about Rs4 crore was found in Anato Zimomi accounts. "Altogether, a total of about Rs23.5 crore seems to have been moved to Dimapur after demonetisation," the person said.
The case turns even more curious from here on. Investigators and Nagaland Police sources say that about Rs13,000 in the final consignment of Rs3.5 crore was found to be fake Indian currency.
To evade enforcement agencies, the aircraft flew out from Delhi to Hissar on each occasion, landing at the Hissar Flying Club. "Cash was loaded in Hissar before the aircraft flew to Dimapur," officials said.
The cash airlifted to Nagaland was being sent back through bank transfer to a Haryana based businessman, sources said.
Naga tribes enjoy tax exemptions. There is now renewed focus on whether this is turning the region into a local tax haven.