Income Tax officials have seized bundles of currency notes from a cement godown in Vellore on Monday morning, just days before the state goes to polls for the 17th Lok Sabha. The godown allegedly belongs to a local DMK functionary Poonjolai Srinivasan. According to sources in the I-T department, the search is still in progress in DMK functionary Perumal's house and the residence of Aakar Ali, the personal assistant of DMK Treasurer Durai Murugan. Pictures of the seized cash, which exceeds Rs 10 crore, show that bundles of new currency notes of various denominations were stuffed inside gunny sacks, big shopping bags and cardboard boxes. I-T officials believe that the cash may have been intended for distribution to voters.
The Chief Electoral Officer of TN Satyabrata Sahoo, meanwhile, said that the search was conducted based on the information received by the District Electoral Officer of Vellore. Stating that a report will be given to the Election Commission if the seized money is related to the polls, CEO Satyabrata Sahoo said that appropriate action will be taken by the Election Commission based on the report submitted by the Income Tax department.
The seizure comes just days I-T officials started raiding senior DMK leader Durai Muruganâ€™s properties. Both I-T and EC officials arrived at 10 pm on Friday, March 29, at Durai Muruganâ€™s house and college, when a scuffle broke out over who had jurisdiction to conduct the raids. Finally, I-T raids began around 3 am on Saturday, March 30.
Many reports stated that the cash was shifted from a college that was part of Duraimurugan Educational Trust, to the godown. Satyabrata Sahoo told the media, "We need to see if this money is connected to any party or candidate. We have no details of the seizure from the Income-tax department."
According to sources, I-T officials will be looking into whether the cash was stored by any of the parties or candidates contesting from Vellore. While the DMK is fielding senior leader Durai Muruganâ€™s son Kathir Anand, the AIADMK+ candidate is Puthiya Needhi Katchi founder AC Shanmugam. The businessman is the chancellor of the Dr MGR Educational and Research Institute. TTV Dhinakaranâ€™s AMMK has nominated Pandurangan to contest from the seat while R Suresh will represent Kamal Haasanâ€™s Makkal Needhi Maiam in the constituency.
Meanwhile, Kathir Anandâ€™s lawyer pleaded in Madras High Court on Monday that the Income Tax departmentâ€™s raids are obstructing Kathir Anand from campaigning in his constituency for the upcoming polls. Stating that Kathir Anand has been detained illegally by the Income Tax officials and that it was against democratic principles, the advocate requested the court to intervene in the matter. The judges said that the court would hear it on Tuesday if the parties file a petition regarding the issue.
(This is a developing story)