Amar Singh lobbied with former PM Chandrashekhar to bail out Bachchan

NEW DELHI: The Income Tax investigations had been probing how Amitabh Bachchan had repaid a Rs 60-crore loan, allegedly taken by him from Indian businessman late CK Pithawalla through the Sahara group. The payments were made through offshore companies based in Mauritius. This payment, which was allegedly Bachchan’s income from the sale of his “actor rights”, was concealed from tax authorities. This had prompted the Income Tax department to launch a probe of tax evasion against Bachchan.

One of the key people who had facilitated the repayment of loan to Pithawalla was former Rajya Sabha MP Amar Singh. Singh was a “good friend” of both Bachchan and Sahara chief Subrata Roy. Amar Singh has now told dna that he helped Bachchan in many ways in the actor’s dealings with Pithawalla.

In a telephonic interview to dna, Singh said, “I spoke to former prime minister Chandrashekharji to speak to Pithawalla to give some respite to Bachchan and give him more time to settle dues. Chandrashekharji and Pithawalla were very close to each other.”

The Income Tax probe had questioned various people involved in the Pithawalla-Bachchan transaction. All of them deposed under oath.

Amar Singh did not depose before the Income Tax, but said that he had accompanied Bachchan to the Income Tax office for ‘moral support’.

Income Tax investigators found that Bachchan’s secretary Sheetal Jain had gone to London and was there when six million Great Britain Pound (GBP) was deposited in the bank account of Pithawalla’s company, Pattchom International Engineering AG. Investigators examined Jain’s passport and found that he was in London between March 26, 2003 and April 10, 2003 – the two days on which 4.6 million GBP and 1.4 million GBP, allegedly on Bachchan’s behalf for repayment of his loan, was deposited in the account of Pithawalla’s company.

Jain deposed before investigators that he had gone to London for some recce work for films and that he did not remember the exact details of his visit. He also denied having carried any pay order or cheque to London for depositing it in the account of Pattchom International Engineering AG.

Another person who was examined was Bachchan’s financial adviser Pravin Vepari. Vepari deposed before investigators that he knew that a financial settlement was being discussed by Bachchan, Pithawalla and his counsel HSR Vakil, among others. Vepari maintained that he was was not a party to those discussions.

Perhaps, it is Amar Singh – the man closest to Bachchan at one point of time – who has a more startling version.

Singh added, “Bachchan took money from Pithawalla to run TV Asia USA. Pithawalla did not ask for any document and kept giving money to Bachchan as and when he asked for it. If I remember correctly, Pravin Vepari insisted for a promissory note as proof. Bachchan wrote it in his own handwriting and signed it. That note was given to Pithawalla. The note was drafted at Vepari’s residence. I was present when that note was given. As a matter of fact, I advised Bachchan not to write that note. I told Bachchan that you are being given an unsecured loan for which you do not even have to give any security. Bachchan told me that Pithawalla had been very nice to loan him money. Bachchan told me that if I am unable to repay the money then the note will give him some comfort. So, therefore, the evidence of Bachchan owing money to Pithawalla is strong and Pithawalla has in the past said that he was indeed repaid the money owed to him by Bachchan. It is strange that Bachchan did not disclose this money as his income and failed to pay tax on it.”

On charges of Sahara’s involvement in repaying Bachchan’s loan, Singh added, “Certain questions in this case can be answered only by Sahara. Now that the truth is coming out, I feel being used by Bachchan at that time. Sahara’s Subrata Roy was almost like family to Bachchan. The whole of Bachchan family were Sahara employees. Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Amitabh Bachchan were directors on the board of Sahara. Jaya Bachchan was also a director at Sahara. She was given a Mercedes car along with a driver by Sahara.”