On a day that Tamil Nadu is expecting the 18 MLAs’ disqualification judgement that might affect the state’s political future, sleuths from the Income Tax Department have begun searches at over 100 properties belonging to VV Minerals and four other firms across Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh on Thursday morning. VV Minerals is one of the country's biggest exporter of rare earth minerals and garnet.
According to news reports, the home of VV Minerals’ head honcho and industrialist Vaikundarajan in Chennai is also being subject to a search and survey operation. Sources tell TNM that 400 Income Tax officials have been deployed for the searches in Coimbatore, Tirunelveli, Karaikal and Tuticorin in Tamil Nadu and in Vishakhapatnam and Srikakulam in Andhra Pradesh.
Sources add that the four firms were involved in secret export of beach sand minerals and the profits gained illegally from there were used to invest in spinning mills, sugar mills, hotels, engineering colleges as well as for transborder transactions.
Reports suggest that the raids are being carried out at the orders of Union Finance Ministry’s Financial Intelligence Unit. The FIU has reportedly pointed out discrepancies in filing of Income Tax returns and disproportionate income by the company.
The controversial company has long been accused of illegal beach sand mining in the state, despite the Madras High Court’s 2013 ban. In April 2017, a report submitted before the Madras High Court alleged that VV Minerals had been mining and transporting the minerals without proper documentation.
In June this year, a report was submitted by IAS officer Gagandeep Singh Bedi who was tasked with probing illegal sand mining in the state by the Tamil Nadu government. Appearing before the court, VV Minerals had argued that that the report was in its favour, clearing its name. "The committee report is in my favour barring five or six findings... It overwhelmingly endorses what I have been saying," VV Minerals' counsel reportedly stated in court.
In March last year, the Thoothukudi district administration had formed squads to carry out raids at the godown of VV Minerals. The Hindu had reported that this was to check whether consignments of beach sand minerals had been stocked in their premises.
(This is a developing story)