It was one of the biggest raids in the history of the Income Tax department. And its shock value didn't just come from the politically affluent people raided, but by the mere magnitude of the operation. So how exactly did the I-T department manage to not tip off anyone about the raids? Well, ‘SRINI weds MAHI’ was their ploy.
Here’s what happened:
On Thursday, Tamil Nadu which has grown familiar with the Income Tax department's affinity to ridding the state of black money, woke up to the news of raids at over 150 properties across the state. This included the office premises of Jaya TV, Jazz Cinemas, Namadhu MGR, shell companies, offices and residences. The investigations spanned across Thanjavur, Tiruchi, Mannargudi and Chennai.
And the link between these locations led to an obvious conclusion – VK Sasikala's empire was under the scanner.
An MLA from TTV Dhinakaran's faction who spoke to The News Minute said that they were completely in the dark about how many locations and people were being raided.
But I-T officials have now revealed the real extent that the department has gone to as part of its 'Clean black money' operations.
According to sources, a whopping 215 properties and 355 people came under the scanner on Thursday. The raids began simultaneously at 67 locations at around 5.30 am in the morning. This later went up to 188 locations.
So how was such an enormous operation kept under the wraps?
Sources reveal that one of the ways was by disguising the multitude of vehicles used in operation as a wedding group. Several of the cars used by the I-T officials carried a poster that said 'SRINI weds MAHI'. The poster was used to divert any suspicion over the enormous number of vehicles that were used to travel across the state.
Sources tell TNM that a total 1800 officials have been deployed for this massive operation and a marriage party would have been the perfect cover for this sudden surge in demand for vehicles. Six commissioners were part of these raids. 350 cabs from Fast Track were booked by I-T officials in Chennai alone.
The AIADMK faction under TTV Dhinakaran has vehemently condemned the raids and alleged political vendetta.
Apsara Reddy, a spokesperson for the Dhinakaran faction, told TNM, "The raids exactly a day after TTV Dhinakaran criticised demonetisation and GST. The timing is highly questionable. The EPS and OPS government which lacks popularity and is giving in to the BJP and have given in to orchestrated political raids. If the Centre wants to really cleanse the nation of black money they should first go after EPS and OPS. EPS was the first name in the controversy regarding bribes in the RK Nagar election. Why isn't the I-T department going after them?" she asks.
This massive raid, the latest clampdown by the I-T department against members of the AIADMK, would have been unthinkable even a year back when former Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa was battling for her life. But now, not only has the virtual wall of protection around the Mannargudi clan been pulled down, but even the hand of the Tamil Nadu government is evident from the police protection that I-T officials have received across the state.