Income Tax officials have been conducting raids on the SPK Group, a highways contractor in Tamil Nadu, in Madurai, Chennai and Arupukottai on Monday. Properties belonging to Nagarajan Seyyadurai, the Managing Director of SPK and Co Expressway Pvt Ltd, has also come under search by IT sleuths.
While the raids that are spread across 30 locations was triggered by a tip-off on alleged tax evasion, The Hindu reports that IT officials were seeking details on cash and documents seized from the company.
Details of recoveries from the raids are yet to be confirmed. However, the IT searches are significant for two reasons.
Firstly, the Departure of Highways and Minor Ports is a portfolio directly overseen by Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami. Secondly, as TNM had reported earlier, the DMK had previously alleged that Nagarajan, the contractor was a benami of the Chief Minister.
Palaniswami served as the Minister for Public Works, Highways and Minor Ports until his elevation to the post of Chief Minister in February 2017. He continues to retain the portfolio.
In June this year, the DMK had lodged a complaint with the Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption (DVAC) alleging corruption in the allocation of five highways project contracts to various firms owned by relatives of the Chief Minister.
Of the projects that the DMK had listed in its plaint, the Rs 200-crore six-laning of the Vandalur- Walajabad road was reportedly undertaken by SPK & Company Expressway, the firm where Nagarajan Seyyadurai is the Managing Director. While Nagarajan is reportedly close to the EPS family, other reports suggest that he also has links with the DMK.
Similar allegations were made on the four laning of the Tirunelveli-Sengottai-Kollam highway on SH 39. The original cost of the project was estimated at Rs 407.6 crore and later revised to Rs 720 crore, alleges DMK. However, the complaint stated that market norms dictate the project cost at Rs 130 crores, including profits to the contractor. The contract for the project has been awarded to Venkatachalapathy Constructions, a firm the DMK alleges is owned by P Subramaniam (EPS’s son Mithun’s father-in-law) as well as his partner Nagarajan.
The DMK also stated that the Rs 2000 crore contract for the maintenance of all State Highways in Ramanathapuram, Thiruvallur, Krishnagiri and Virudhunagar districts has been awarded to the same SPK & Company Expressway. The DMK alleges that the project was later sub-contracted to the firm owned by Mithun’s father-in-law.