TN Vigilance books former Minister SP Velumani for graft, raids 26 places

DVAC sleuths carried out raids on September 13 in 26 locations linked to the former Minister, in Chennai, Coimbatore and Trichy.
SP Velumani DVAC raid
SP Velumani DVAC raid

Raids are underway in 26 locations linked to former Minister and present-day Thondamuthur MLA SP Velumani of AIADMK, over allegations that he abused his official position as Minister for Rural Development to between 2015 and 2018.

The Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption (DVAC) - who are conducting the raids - have said that he awarded tenders to companies belonging to his close associates, to replace the existing street lights with LED lights in rural areas during the period between 2015 and 2018, thereby causing loss to the government exchequer to the tune of Rs 500 crore.

DVAC has booked Velumani and several others for swindling public money and causing loss to the public exchequer. An FIR has been registered under sections 120(b) (punishment of criminal conspiracy), 409 (criminal breach of trust by public, servant or by banker, merchant or agent), 420 (cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property) of IPC, along with clauses under section 13 of Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. Section 13 deals with criminal misconduct by a public servant.

The FIR dated September 12 has been registered against SP Velumani, along with nine persons and others, whose companies were awarded tenders in the LED light scheme, based on two complaint petitions filed by Radhapuram ex-MLA and present-day Tamil Nadu Assembly Speaker M Appavu. The FIR names K Chandraprakash, R Chandrasekar, D Srinivasan, D Siddharthan, KU Rajan, CT Radhakrishnan, R Parasuraman, P Vijaya Kumar, K Manivannan and few others as the accused in this case.

SP Velumani, during his tenure as Minister, had constituted a state-level committee to fix the cost of LED lights for each financial year. The committee was also responsible for framing the terms and conditions of tenders. The complaint alleged that the committee framed the terms in such a way that the people connected with Velumani, got a contract for replacing lights at the district level. “The suppliers of 20-watt and 90-watt LED street lights in the tender are either fake or have no experience in the electrical business and they are nothing, but benami entities of SP Velumani,” the complaint had alleged.

The FIR stated that the DVAC, had conducted a detailed enquiry and found prima facie evidence to the effect that SP Velumani, “had willfully abused his official position in causing injudicious award of the tenders in connivance with the district level committee of Salem, Kanyakumari, Dharmapuri, Nagapattinam, Trichy and other districts in Tamil Nadu during the period 2015 to 2018.”

“The state-level committee (SLC) members fixed a much higher rate for LED lights than the original market price, in the scheme of replacing the existing street lights with LED lights. The complaint against SP Velumani and others claimed that the fixed higher price caused a loss to the exchequer of around Rs 500 crore in Rural Development and Panchayat Raj department,” the FIR mentioned.

The FIR also stated that several persons, including the ex-Minister and officials, were involved in the execution of the scheme and contractors conspired together to obtain wrongful gain from the amount allotted for the above said scheme. Further, it added that they violated the tender guidelines and allotted tenders mostly to the benami entities of Velumani by fixing a higher rate for the LED street lights than the original rate without comparing the prevailing market rate and causing loss to the exchequer. Velumani is also accused of violating conduct rule 23 of the Tamil Nadu Government Business Rules and Secretariat Instructions, by awarding the tenders to a certain company owned by his close associates. Rule 23 specifically prohibits the Minister in charge of a department from acting on any matter in which he has a conflict of interest.

DVAC has also gathered prima facie material to show that the same modus operandi might have been followed in other districts. A sample verification was conducted in five districts and DVAC found that loss to the tune of Rs 74 crore was caused to the government. Searches by DVAC sleuths have been conducted in several places, including 10 places in Chennai, nine in Coimbatore and seven places in Tambaram, Avadi, Trichy and Chengalpattu areas.

In March this year, the properties of SP Velumani were searched for a second time by DVAC and a case was registered over disproportionate assets of Rs 58.93 crore. Further, a total of 10 officials, including four IAS officers were found to be involved in illegally awarding contracts to firms linked with SP Velumani.

DVAC has also registered a criminal case against former Health and Family Welfare Minister and presently Viralimalai MLA, Dr C Vijayabaskar in a corruption case over irregularities in the issuance of essentiality certificate, in 2020.

“Property tax and electricity prices have been hiked in the state. People are worried about the hike in tariffs, but the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) government uses these raids to distract the people from the main issues. In the last 15 months, after DMK assumed office, all they have done is initiate raids at every AIADMK leader’s house,” said Kinathukadavu MLA Dhamodharan.

"They are deliberately conducting these raids. Policemen have placed barricades around his house and are treating SP Velumani like he is a terrorist. How can the students go to the school, if the police department places barricades at all points around his house?" questioned Coimbatore North MLA Amman K Arjunan.

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