ED in letter to TN DGP says sand mining happening in massive scale, demands action

The ED has alleged that the state government failed to act strongly against illegal mining so far and sought further action.
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The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has sent a letter to the Tamil Nadu Director General of Police seeking to investigate collusion between government officials and private contractors in the alleged sand mining scam. The ED has alleged that the state government failed to act strongly against illegal mining so far and sought further action.

The ED, which has been investigating the sand mining scam in Tamil Nadu since 2023, had also written similar missives to the Income Tax Department and GST Council to probe tax evasion.

The letter to the DGP, dated June 13, has been sent by the ED joint director Piyush Yadav, Chennai Zone-1. TNM has seen the letter which alleges that illegal sand mining activities are taking place in and around sand quarries in the state on a massive scale. During the course of the investigation, under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), the ED gathered information regarding Tamil Nadu government awarding contracts to private contractors for quarrying sand from 28 quarry sites in various riverbeds across the state. 

The ED examined officials from the departments of Mining and Monitoring and Water Resources and found out that four firms have been awarded contracts by the Tamil Nadu government for mining sand from quarries and its transportation. The ED named four contractors who have been awarded contracts by the Tamil Nadu Government for sand quarrying and transportation of quarried sand to the sale depot. VR Raja, MRM Ramaiya Enterprises Private Limited, K Infra owned by O Panneerselvam and Karikalan and RS constructions owned by A Rajakumar. 

ED employed the services of M/s Terraqua UAV solutions  incubated at IIT Kanpur), to conduct a technical study of all the mining sites using drone and LIDAR surveys, Bathymetric surveys, satellite imagery processing etc. in the 28 sites and nearby areas. The report on the technical study established excessive mining in the sites and illegal sand mining in the nearby areas, the letter said. 

It also had the names of the quarries, lease area, impact of the mining and the excess volume of sand that has been illegally mined from the 20 quarries located in various parts of Tamil Nadu. The areas include Tiruvallur’s Echambadi, Vellore’s Kandaneri, Villupuram’s Enathimangalam, Pudukottai’s Kookur, Karur’s Nerur North, Namakkal’s Oruvanthur and Senthamangalam, Ariyalur’s Valakurachi, Thanjavur’s Thiruchanampoondi, Perambalur’s Sathanur and Nagapattinam’s Vadarangam among others.

“It is found that there are violations in terms of area and depth of excavation which has resulted in excessive volume of sand excavation. Even at 4 sand quarries, there is an estimate of excessive and illegal sand mining up to 10-30 times of the actual permitted quantity and as against the permitted area of 4.90 hectares, mined area of 104-105 hectare is found adjacent to the original permitted area,” the letter said. 

The Kobelco Construction Equipment India Ltd (manufacturer of excavator machines) after analysis of GPS data of their machine, submitted that they were used to mine sand in 28 locations and also in coordinates where mining is not permitted, the ED letter said. 

The ED had attached more than 200 excavators in February this year as part of its money laundering investigation.

Similarly, the JCB India Limited too has furnished details to the ED regarding eight customers in Tamil Nadu who bought 32 excavator machines for sand mining. “It has emerged from the investigation conducted under PMLA that illegal mining activities in and around sand quarries are carried out at massive scale in Tamil Nadu,” the letter said. 

The letter said the excavators worked continuously in and around designated quarry areas, without any adverse action by the Tamil Nadu government. “The government officials and contractors concerned are also hand-in-glove with the owners of excavators and have been complicit with them. This issue is of extremely serious concern as it is not only having adverse impact on the ecology and environment but also causing huge loss to the government exchequer in the form of revenue,” the letter said. 

The enforcement agency has been conducting probes since September 2023 into sand quarries across the state. The allegations are that a large quantity of sand is being mined and illegally sold. In November last year, the ED had informed the HC that illegal sand mining sales to the tune of approximately Rs 4,700 crore have taken place over the last couple of years.

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