A café in Goa that has been at the centre of a political controversy since June 23 is linked to the family of Union minister Smriti Irani through a set of financial transactions, The Indian Express reported on Tuesday.
Last month, the Congress sought Irani’s resignation after reports claimed that the Silly Souls Goa Café and Bar, allegedly run by her daughter Zoish Irani, had renewed its liquor licence illegally.
In response to the allegations, Zoish Irani’s lawyer Kirat Nagra claimed that his client neither owns nor operates the restaurant. Nagra also said that his client had only interned with the chef of Silly Souls Café.
However, official records accessed by The Indian Express indicate that companies owned by three members of Smriti Irani’s family may be linked to the café.
According to the records, Zoish Irani, the minister’s son Zohr Irani, husband Zubin Irani and his daughter Shanelle Irani own two firms named Ugraya Mercantile Private Limited and Ugraya Agro Farms Private Limited.
These two companies have invested in a third firm named Eightall Food and Beverages LLP in 2020-2021.
Smriti Irani, however, does not own shares in any of the three companies.
According to records accessed through Goods and Services Tax Identification Numbers, or GSTIN, Eightall listed its principal place of business as H No 452, Ground Floor, Bouta Waddo, Assagao, North Goa, Goa. The Silly Souls Goa Café and Bar also has the same address.
While Ugraya Mercantile resolved to invest up to 50% of the total capital of Eightall, Ugraya Agro resolved to invest up to 25%, The Indian Express reported, citing filings with the Registrar of Companies.
Ugraya Mercantile and Ugraya Agro also gave short-term loans of Rs 20 lakh and Rs 10 lakh respectively to Eightall.
The liquor licence issued to Silly Souls Goa Café and Bar was allegedly registered in the name of Anthony D’Gama, a Mumbai resident. However, a notice by Goa Excise Commissioner Narayan M Gad said that the liquor licence was renewed in June, even though D’Gama died on May 17, 2021.
The owner of the café, Dean D’Gama refused to answer questions asked by The Indian Express about the restaurant’s address being the same as the principal place of business for Eightall.
His counsel, advocate Benny Nazareth claimed that the restaurant had a valid excise licence. He also said that his client had responded to the show cause notice.
Commenting on Zoish Irani’s alleged links to the café, her counsel, Nagra, said that the matter was sub-judice. “Secondly, we would not like to say anything about the restaurant or anything relating to the matter, directly or indirectly,” he told The Indian Express.
Several Opposition leaders on Tuesday questioned Smriti Irani over the allegations.
The Congress asked the Union minister to “break her silence” on the matter.
Other Opposition leaders also questioned the claims made by the minister.
On July 29, the Delhi High Court observed on a prima facie basis that Smriti Irani and Zoish Irani are not the owners of Silly Souls Café and Bar. It ordered the Congress leaders to remove, within 24 hours, allegedly defamatory social media posts related to the Iranis.
The court also issued notices to Congress leaders Pawan Khera, Jairam Ramesh and Netta D’ Souza seeking their reply on the civil defamation suit filed by the Union minister.