CHENNAI: In one of the biggest seizures of demonetised currency, a gunny bag packed with Rs 45 crore in the old 500- and 1,000-rupee denominations was seized from a uniform shop owner’s residence in Kodambakkam on Thursday.
Though the seized currency notes do not have any value and are as good as waste paper, their sheer volume has got the investigating agencies, including the Income Tax department, interested in finding how such a large amount of cash was acquired by shop owner D Dhandapani.
Police told Express that they suspected Dhandapani could have procured the cash a week ago from a T Nagar jewellery shop broker Padam Salani from Rajasthan. “We are now searching for him,” said an investigating officer.
Police got the tip-off about the demonetised cash when Dhandapani, who feared both income tax department and police, tried to dispose of it after he had failed to convert it into legal tender.
“In his attempt to convert the notes into legal tender, he approached a couple of persons who visited his home,” said police. However, it was when one of them approached Dhandapani later that police were tipped off.
A police team from T Nagar, headed by Assistant Commissioner Tamizhselvan, conducted searches at his residence-cum-shop in Kodambakkam’s Zachariah Colony, 2nd street, which is famous for selling police uniform, at around 1 am. Since 30 minutes’ search could not yield anything substantial, the policemen were preparing to leave when one of them spotted a suspicious looking gunny bag. They opened it to find demonetised notes stashed in it.
The cash was counted with the help of a machine. The whole exercise lasted five hours, said the police.
“We are trying to ascertain whether the cash belongs to the jewellery shop owner or to Padam Salani, who is suspected to have provided the cash. We are also looking at different angles including the involvement of politicians,” said an investigation officer.
A senior police officer privy to the case said Padam Salani and Dhandapani met six months ago. “Two weeks back, Padam allegedly gave some money to the latter which was kept in the storeroom of Dhandapani’s shop and was taken back in a few days. After that, Padam had again given Rs 45 crore to Dhandapani, which was seized now,” he added. He also said that the money is believed to be transported by a Tata Ace car and through a school bag.
The police officer pointed out that under Specified Bank Notes (Cessation of Liabilities) Act, 2017, a case cannot be filed by the police department and should be investigated by the Reserve Bank of India. However, the Kodambakkam police suo motto filed a case under section 102 of the CrPc (Power of police officer to seize certain property) and the money would be handed over to the magistrate court on Friday.
Meanwhile, Income Tax investigation wing on Thursday said that it would also be investigating the case, once the probe by the Tamil Nadu police was completed.
“Though the seized demonetised cash has no value, we will use it as evidence. We will be investigating how he acquired such a volume of demonetised cash and why he kept it,” said a top income tax official.
The official refused to draw a parallel between this case of old cash seizure and the ongoing investigation against sand mining baron Shekar Reddy. “The currency seized from Shekar Reddy was also demonetised and yet at that time, it had value. Now it is just a paper,” the official added.