The shell companies owned by Asaram Bapu are facing investigation by the Income Tax department. It has sent notices to Arjun Nav Nirman Private limited and VRV Investment Private Limited after a probe showed that they were being used by Asaram’s ashram. Shell companies are non-trading companies which are used for various financial transactions and kept dormant for future use in any other capacity. Shell companies are used for tax evasion and money laundering by people and businesses. According to officials from Income Tax, “the department has identified at least two such shell companies as fronts of the ashram. One is Arjun Nav Nirman, Another is VRV Investment Pvt Ltd. Between them, the two own at least 49 properties, spread across the country.”
The two companies have collectively invested at least 100 crores on behalf of the ashram. The IT department has started an investigation under the Benami Property Act. Officials of Arjun Nav Nirman and VRV Investment were untraceable at their registered addresses. Many shops in a shopper’s plaza at Ahmedabad are owned by these two companies, but the tenants are not aware that these companies have links with Asaram. The tenants said one Jignesh Patel used to collect rent from them. When contacted, Patel admitted that he was an inmate of the ashram till 2008 and that he used to collect rent. He, however, denied having any knowledge of the arrangement between the ashram and its fronts. He also claimed that he had distanced himself from the ashram 10 years ago.
Asaram is a self-styled godman from Ahmedabad in Gujarat. His brand of Hinduism preaches simplified readings of scriptures with tantric practices. He was one of 14 fake babas put on the boycott list of Akhil Bharatiya Akhara Parishad (ABAP). The others in the list included Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, Haryana cult leader Rampal and Asaram’s son Narayan Sai. ABAP is the apex organization of Hindu Sants (saints) and Sadhus (ascetics) in India. It released the list to protect defamation of Hinduism by godmen like Asaram and Radhe Ma.
Asaram had been sentenced to 20 years imprisonment by a Jodhpur court for raping a 16-year-old girl in 2013 in his Jodhpur ashram. While his case was being heard in Jodhpur, the city had to be turned into a fortress because his supporters were creating a law and order problem.
The home of the raped girl in Saharanpur was given police protection due to threats from Asaram followers. Many witnesses in the Asaram case were attacked and three of them were murdered by his henchmen.
In 2008, mutilated bodies of two children were recovered from the banks of the Sabarmati river close to his ashram in Motera. It was found that some vital organs from the bodies were missing. Despite criminal charges against him, the ‘godman’ has more than two crore followers. He owns property worth millions, has close to 400 ashrams in 12 countries and more than 50 schools, as well as a printing press and an Ayurveda unit. By 2008, his empire was worth Rs 5,000 crore, a charge sheet filed by the police had claimed. He enjoyed significant political clout and leaders across the political spectrum visited his ashram. Many state governments donated land to his government. The donations received by religious organizations are tax free but they are also used for money laundering and tax evasion by some people and businesses, just like the shell companies owned by Asaram.