Income tax raids on Mammooty, Mohanlal

Kochi Income tax officials Friday raided two of India's biggest film stars, Mammootty and Mohanlal, across four southern cities. Both the Kerala-based actors have been asked to appear before tax officials in person here. The raids began early at 6.30 a.m., with 80 officials simultaneously verifying records at their homes in Kochi and numerous offices in Chennai, Bangalore and Thiruvananthapuram. IT sleuths cited a huge gap in the IT returns and the income the superstars make in a year. Both have the same chartered accountant who has his head office in Thiruvananthapuram. The initial statements from both the actors have been taken. Mammootty is expected to appear before IT officials in the evening as he was in Chennai when the raids began, while Mohanlal may not arrive Friday as he is shooting in the coastal town of Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu. IT officials 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 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. Sources close to him say he has left for Kochi. 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. One 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. 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. The IT officials locked the homes from inside and no one was allowed to come in or go out as they prepared their report based on the superstars' IT returns. 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.