A whopping Rs 100 crore must have been distributed to voters indicated cash and documents seized by the Income Tax officials during raids at various places, including residence and business premises of Tamil Nadu Health Minister C. Vijayabaskar, a senior IT official said on Friday.
"We have seized cash totalling Rs 5.5 crore. We have also seized documents showing around Rs 89 crore changed hands for distribution to voters of R.K. Nagar," the IT official told IANS on condition of anonymity.
"A cash disbursal of Rs 100 crore to bribe voters will be a very conservative estimate," he added.
According to the IT official, searches at over 50 places are still going on as recording of statements are underway.
"We have been sending inputs regularly to the Election Commission throughout the day. We are yet to send a final report to the Commission. Our report will be a status report and not recommendatory for any plan of action," he added.
A team of around 150 Income Tax officials began their search operations at the residences and business premises of Vijayabaskar, his relatives and associates.
"Rs 3.5 crore in cash was seized from Nainar Mohammed, one of the confidants of Vijayabaskar. Around Rs 1 crore was seized from a person managing the funds of Vijayabaskar," the official said.
According to him, some documents were seized from the residence of Vijayabaskar.
Raids were also conducted at the house of actor-turned-politician, Sammuthuva Makkal Katchi leader Sarathkumar, apart from searches at premises of some AIADMK functionaries and government officials.
Initially, the raids were launched at around 35 places. The operation was later extended to nearly 50 addresses, including some located outside Chennai in the state, the official added.
He said: "Trigger for raids at Vijayabaskar's residence is the money distributed to voters in the R.K. Nagar assembly constituency where the bypoll is slated for April 12."
Vijayabaskar is a loyalist of AIADMK General Secretary V.K. Sasikala, now in jail after conviction for corruption.
Sasikala's relative T.T.V. Dhinakaran is contesting the seat and complaints of large-scale bribing of voters was lodged with the Election Commission by the opposition parties.
The officer said Minister Vijayabaskar was on the IT radar for the past one year in connection with his quarry business.
Soon after the news about the raids broke, media persons assembled outside Vijayabaskar's residence.
AIADMK (Sasikala faction) leaders and cadres, too, gathered there and demanded entry into his residence.
Speaking to the media, Vijayabaskar said the IT officials were not able to find even Rs 10,000 from his house and his children were not allowed to attend school.
The raid at Sarathkumar's residence comes a day after he announced his support to Dhinakaran.
PMK founder S. Ramadoss in a statement demanded sacking of Vijayabaskar and other officials whose residences were searched by the IT officials.
DMK working President and Leader of Opposition in assembly M.K. Stalin said IT raids on AIADMK leaders was not something new.
He said IT searches were also conducted at the residences of former ministers Natham Viswanathan, Saidai Duraisamy and others.
Stalin recalled the IT raid on the residence of former Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary P. Rama Mohana Rao.
According to Stalin, despite the raids by the IT Department on these people, there was no follow-up action and the central government should come clean on the issue.