When more than 1800 sleuths belonging to the Department of Income Tax barged into the residences and business premises of the jailed AIADMK leader V K Sasikala and her relations and associates early Thursday morning masquerading as members of a marriage party, nobody other than the Sasikala clan was surprised. The raids which began on Thursday morning at 200 locations spread over Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Puducherry and New Delhi are continuing even as this report is being despatched. The raids were part of the “Operation Clean Money Drive” launched by the IT Department to flush out black money, hawala transactions and money laundering businesses, said an official.
TTV Dinakaran, Sasikala’s nephew whose farmhouse at Puducherry was raided, lambasted the BJP and the Centre for trying to smoke out him and Sasikala from politics.
The IT officials are tight-lipped about the raids and till now no official statement has been issued by the Department. The places which were raided include the offices of Jaya TV, Namathu MGR (both mouth pieces of the Mannargudi family), Phoenix Shopping Mall at Velachery in Chennai where the Sasikala family owns a number of multiplexes, Chennai residences of Krishna Priya, Vivek Jayaraman (niece and nephew of Sasikala who are in charge of the clan’s business operations), residence of M Natarajan, the non-resodent husband of Sasikala at Thanjavur, residences and business premises of T V Divakaran (Sasikala’s brother) at Mannargudi, the sprawling tea estate in The Nilgiri (a favourite resting place of the late chief minister J Jayalalithaa), Midas Distilleries owned by the close relations of Sasikala. There are other places too but the list may require a lot of space to mention them individually.
The opposition DMK, Congress, VCK, the Lefts and Islamic outfits were quick to react terming them as political vendetta unleashed by the Union Government. TTV Dinakaran, Sasikala’s nephew whose farmhouse at Puducherry was raided, lambasted the BJP and the Centre for trying to smoke out him and Sasikala from politics. The Congress in Tamil Nadu, headed by S Thirunavakkarassar, a one-time acolyte of Sasikala, reacted sharply and charged that it was an attempt to weaken the Sasikala faction of the AIADMK.
An evening newspaper by the name News Today has carried a shocking news in its Friday edition in which it has revealed that ferocious dogs were unleashed at the officials who went to one of the establishments for the raid. “This is the first of its kind experience in my decades-long career,” said the official. The IT team had to summon armed policemen to shield them from the marauding animals.
The local media in Tamil Nadu has been publishing reports about hundreds of shell companies owned by Sasikala and her family members. On the occasion of the first anniversary of the Demonetisation exercise, the Union Government had released a statement in which it has quoted the ministry of corporate affairs disclosing that 2.24 lakh companies engaged in hawala transactions and money laundering were de-registered during the last one year. Names of lakhs of people who were officiating as directors of these companies were furnished by the ministry. Names of Sasikala and her family members figured in the list along with a lot of bigwigs in Indian politics.
Even after two days of raids, the IT officials have not disclosed the details of items and materials which they seized from these places. “The shell companies owned by Sasikala and her relations are being thoroughly studied. The bank accounts operated in the names of these shell companies too are under the scanner,” said an IT official who did not want his name to be quoted.
The Government of India release had mentioned that last one year saw the Income Tax department unearthing 35,000 money laundering companies which laundered Rs.17,000 crores since the demonetization was declared on November 8, 2016.
According to The Hindu, the Sasikala clan owns nearly 15 shell companies from a nondescript room in Chennai’s T Nagar area. All these companies record profit to the tune of hundreds of crores of rupees though the maximum investment made by the shareholders could be as less as Rs.5 lakhs.
A journalist based in Chennai told PGurus that the number of firms owned by the Sasikala family could run into 100s. “I myself has collected the names of nearly 100 shell companies owned by the Mannargudi family. These companies launched with paid-up capital of Rs.5 to Rs.10 lakhs have registered profits to the tune of crores.”
“Over the last six months, Sasikala and her family has emerged as the real AIADMK and she would ensure the defeat of EPS and OPS,” said Arun Janardhanan, a Chennai based correspondent for The Indian Express. Elsewhere in Tamil Nadu, political commentators who are known for their pro-CPI-M stance, as well as the love for Dravidian ideology, have started eulogising Sasikala and Dinakaran much to the chagrin of the AIADMK cadre. There are possibilities of Sasikala aligning with the Congress, the DMK and the Lefts.
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