Kochi, July 22 (IANS) Raids were conducted by Income Tax officials on two of India's biggest filmstars, Mammootty and Mohanlal, and their business associates across four southern cities Friday, and are set to continue over the weekend, officials said, declining to give details of the findings.
T.P.Krishnakumar, director, investigations in the Income Tax office here, told reporters that the raids that began Friday morning will continue for the next two days and only then would things be clear.
The raid, by around 80 officials, began as early as 6.30 a.m at 20 different places including the residence and offices of these two superstars and their close business associates across this Kerala city, Chennai, Bangalore, and Thiruvananthapuram.
IT sleuths cited a huge gap between the income of the superstars in a year and the amount mentioned in the tax returns they file. Both have the same chartered accountant who has his head office in Thiruvananthapuram.
The initial statements from both the actors have been taken.
A huge amount of cash is learnt to have been collected from Mammootty's house and it has now become clear that he charges Rs.15 million for a film.
Both the Kerala-based actors have been asked to appear before tax officials in person here.
Mammootty arrived from Chennai Friday night here, while Mohanlal is expected to reach here Saturday as he is shooting in the coastal town of Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu.
IT officials however, Friday afternoon reached Rameswaram and took a statement from Mohanlal.
The extensive raids, it now appears, were kept secret by the IT department and also a well planned one as officials also closed in on the business associates of the two superstars.
The officials also reached the home of Mohanlal in the Kerala capital where his aged mother resides. For Mammootty, the raid came a day after his son's engagement in Chennai.
Mohanlal has interests in film production, distribution, IT education and also the hospitality industry. Besides, he is an active player in the real estate sector along with his close friends.
Mammootty's interests also include a film production house and he is the patron of a new boutique hospital in Bangalore.
Those questioned include Mohanlal and Mammootty's main business partners, producer Antony Perumbavoor and Anto Joseph respectively.
During the searches, a pair of elephant tusks was recovered from Mohanlal's home here. Income tax officials have got in touch with the forest department to find out if he has the permission to keep it.
A bedroom of Mohanlal at his Kochi residence is yet to be opened because a bio-metric gadget makes entry possible only with the fingerprints of close family members.
Likewise a few lockers that were found in Mammootty's home here were not opened as the sleuths wanted them to be opened in his presence.
Last week, Kozhikode businessman K.A. Rauf, without naming anyone, said a Malayalam superstar and a business house in the state were engaged in a huge real estate deal in Maharashtra.
Meanwhile, critic Sukumar Azhikode, who has been having a running feud with Mohanlal, wanted Defence Minister A.K.Antony to recommend withdrawal of the honorary rank of Lt. Colonel rank given to him after he was enrolled into the Territorial Army .
Actor Thilakan who last year was booted out of AMMA, the only body of Malayalam film actors after he was critical of these two superstars, reacted to Friday's raids by saying that those who occupy a pride of place in the minds of many, should be clean in all respects.
The raids come at a time when the two superstars, after nearly three decades in the industry, appear to be losing their iron grip, with most recent films bombing at the box office.