The last time Sasikala and family came under the I-T scanner was in 1996 – after Jayalalithaa’s rout in the Assembly Elections.

First I-T raids in 20 years Jayas involvement had protected Sasikalas Mannargudi clan
news I-T Raids Thursday, November 09, 2017 - 16:35

Codenamed ‘Operation Clean Money’, Income Tax officials swooped in on properties belonging to ‘ousted’ AIADMK General Secretary VK Sasikala’s family and associates on Thursday morning. The raids took place at over 180 locations across Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, including in offices of mouthpieces Jaya TV, and Namadhu MGR – which are controlled by Sasikala and her family.

The I-T searches targeted residences and establishments run by Sasikala’s family members such as brother Dhivakaran, her sister-in-law Ilavarasi’s son Vivek Jayaraman, as well as a number of their supporters and associates.

Read: Tax raids on Jaya TV, Jazz Cinemas and other Sasikala-family-linked businesses

First raid in 20 years

This is the first time in over 20 years that Income Tax officials have carried out such largescale raids against the Mannargudi family. Coming as it does less than a year after Jayalalithaa’s demise, the question that many are asking is, would this ‘operation’ against Sasikala and her family members have taken place if the former Chief Minister were alive?

“No. If Jayalalithaa were alive, these raids would not have happened. This case was under investigation before May 2014.  One business was taken over blatantly and against law. Inquiry should have been done. The Income Tax department didn’t do so. What does that mean?” observes RK Radhakrishnan, Associate Editor of Frontline.  

The business that Radhakrishnan is referring to is the alleged forceful takeover of Luxe multiplex in Chennai belonging to SPI Cinemas by Jazz Cinemas – run by Vivek Jayaraman and other family members in 2015.

The last time Sasikala and family came under the I-T scanner was in 1996 – after Jayalalithaa’s rout in the Assembly Elections. The corruption allegations that surfaced following her first term in power in Tamil Nadu led to over a dozen cases against the former CM, including the Disproportionate Assets case. Sasikala also found herself named in 39 cases and was eventually arrested in June 1996.

Reporting for India Today in December 1996, Amarnath K Menon and GC Shekhar write of Jayalalithaa’s first term as CM, “For five years she presided over what can at best be termed as a 'cash-and-carry' government whose only goal seemed to be the promotion of her extended family that included the controversial Sasikala Natarajan and her relatives.”

JJ TV raided

Between 1996 and 1997, I-T officials carried out searches in a number of properties belonging to Jayalalithaa, her close aide Sasikala, and her relatives.

The erstwhile JJ TV was also raided during this period.

Speaking to TNM, a source who once worked at JJ TV says that the channel, headquartered at Habibullah Road in Chennai’s T Nagar, was then run by Managing Director TTV Bhaskaran – Sasikala’s nephew and TTV Dhinakran’s brother. Soon after the raids, however, Jayalalithaa distanced herself from Bhaskaran, says the source.

While operations at JJ TV folded up in June 1996, Sasikala and Bhaskaran were accused of illegal foreign exchange transactions at the channel. Twenty years later, trial in the JJ TV case is still going on, with a court framing charges against Sasikala as recently as June 2017.

Rebranded as Jaya TV in 1999, and now located in Ekkattuthangal in Chennai, the channel is now owned by 11 directors with Sasikala’s nephew Vivek calling the shots.

Poes Garden spared now

While Jayalalithaa’s Poes Garden residence has been spared now, visuals of I-T raids at ‘Veda Nilayam’ on December 6, 1996 were beamed on Sun TV, owned by DMK’s Karunanidhi’s grandnephew – Kalanidhi Maran.  The pictures on TV of silk sarees, dozens of shoes, watches and jewellery gave the people in Tamil Nadu a window into the vast amounts of wealth acquired by Jayalalithaa.

“These raids would not have happened if Jayalalithaa were alive. But it doesn’t mean you can’t correct something that is wrong,” argued the former JJ TV employee.

And although the operation comes a day after the BJP-led Centre’s ‘Anti-Black Money Day’ - to mark one year since demonetisation – the timing of the raids has raised suspicions. This given the BJP’s proximity to the Edappadi Palaniswami government in Tamil Nadu.

Pointing out that the target of I-T searches in the past have been Opposition leaders across the country, Radhakarishnan says, “Raid all politicians. Politics in India is driven by black money. But I-T officials have selectively chosen to raid the DK Shivakumar, the Energy Minister of Karnataka.  Sarath Kumar’s offices were raided after he met TTV Dhinakaran, and recently actor Vishal’s office was raided after he supported Vijay in the Mersal controversy. How many BJP leaders or workers have been raided? It is very difficult to believe these raids have no political colour.”  

And while Sasikala’s proximity to the former Iron Lady of Tamil Nadu may have shielded her family for over 20 years, it appears the long arm of the law has finally caught up with the Mannargudi clan.   

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