Andhra Pradesh Covid-19 Health Telangana

Black money ‘extorted’ from COVID patients flowing into real estate: Ex-Andhra Pradesh IAS officer

HYDERABAD: Is the black money “extorted” from COVID-19 patients during the first and second waves of the pandemic, finding its way into the real estate sector? It appears likely as this was the first sector that bounced back to life once COVID-19 began receding while all other sectors were struggling to find their feet.

Lending credence to the suspicion was the recent seizure of Rs 142.87 crore in cash from Hetero Drugs offices at various locations when I-T sleuths raided them. Since the real estate sector began booming as the pandemic receded, former Andhra Pradesh chief secretary IYR Krishna Rao smelt a rat and sounded an alert to Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.

In a couple of tweets, he said: “If Remdesivir can be the cash cow what could have been the income from COVID to the corporate hospitals? Post COVID, real estate in Hyderabad is booming. With so much cash collected from COVID patients where will it to go other than real estate? I-T department can start analysing the big real estate deals around Hyderabad. The thread will automatically lead to black money held in cash.”

Krishna Rao also said that recent income tax raids on a pharma company in Hyderabad yielded cash in hundreds of crores. This particular company had a virtual monopoly on drug Remdesivir considered very effective in treatment of COVID. A lot of corporate hospitals also made a killing during the pandemic. “Real estate in and around Hyderabad post Covid is booming and it may be because of the cash transactions during the COVID time. Where else to invest cash than in real estate,” he asked.

“If income tax authorities zero in on big real estate transactions in and around Hyderabad, I am sure, the trail will lead to more such cash seizures. The Finance Minister and the I-T Department may better concentrate on that,” he said.

According to realtors, these days, employees working in pharma industries, health sector and related institutes and those in high income groups in the IT sector are greatly interested in investing in real estate. Telangana State Realtors Association president N Praveen said that owners and management of hospitals, pharmaceutical companies and senior doctors have earned a lot of money and are investing in lands.

“Many of them have bought some acres and prime properties. Though such people used to invest in real estate earlier, the investments have increased multiple times due to COVID-19. Even those running medical stores have bought plots in the city,” Praveen added.