CHENNAI: The DMK government continued to face the heat from central agencies as officials from the Enforcement Directorate on Tuesday entered the state water resources department chief engineer’s (CE) office in Chennai under central reserve police force protection and took away files pertaining to sand mining across TN. Earlier this year, ED officials had searched the office of then electricity minister Senthil Balaji in a job scam.
According to sources, ED is carrying out searches after allegations of money laundering and tax evasion were made in the mining and sale of sand in TN. While sand is ostensibly being sold online in TN with e-receipts at sand mining depots, a huge part of the actual sale happens offline without receipts at huge profit margins and without paying taxes, sources said.
On Tuesday, ED carried out searches in 30 places across TN, including residences and site offices of sand mining barons S Ramachandran and Dindigul Rathinam, and at three sand quarries in Tiruchy and two in the Chennai region.
Water resources department officials said the search in the CE’s office was conducted to ascertain the link between Senthil Balaji and the mining barons. “A few files have been seized. One of the engineers was also taken for questioning,” sources said.
Dindigul-based industrialist Rathinam’s residence and office near GTN Road in Dindigul and assets linked to his aide Govindan were also searched. Rathinam runs education institutions in Dindigul and Pudukkottai districts and is also into real estate. Ramachandran’s house located at Muthupattinam village and his office at Nijam Nagar in Pudukkottai town were among those searched. The two were earlier arrested in 2016 along with industrialist Sekar Reddy, who is facing ED investigation in a money laundering case.
ED seizes docs, pen drive at Vellore PWD sand quarry
According to ED sources, the two buy sand at a cheaper rate from government mines and do second at the stockyard without any receipts, thus evading value-added tax and other taxes. While 400 cubic feet of sand is sold by the state government for approximately Rs 1,300, it is sold for more than Rs 10,000 by these private entities.
In Tiruchy, ED raids were also carried out at Thalakkudi and Thiruvanaikkaval Kondaiyampettai sand quarries allegedly linked to Ramachandran. Searches were also conducted in a sand quarry that has been operating for the past three months in Valaikurichi near T Palur in Ariyalur district.
In Vellore, searches were carried out at Kanthaneri Palaru River’s Public Works Department (PWD) sand quarry which has been under lens since its establishment in March 2021. The quarry was leased by Karigalan and Ramachandran. Permission was granted for sand mining up to a depth of three feet over a 5-acre stretch along the river.
The operational logistics involved daily sand transportation from a mooring line, located 2 km away, utilizing a fleet of over 500 tractor and tipper lorries. As per the lease terms, the sand was supposed to be stocked on the quarry premises and sold at the government fixed rate of Rs 6,300 per unit.
However, allegations were raised regarding the quarry exceeding its sanctioned sand extraction limit and encroaching on several additional acres of land. Concerns were also raised about fraudulent receipts being used to sell one unit of sand for Rs 10,000. During the search on Tuesday, ED had seized documents and a pen drive at the site.
Probe on Balaji link?
Sources said ED is carrying out searches in 30 places, including residences and offices of S Ramachandran and Dindigul Rathinam over their suspected links with Senthil Balaji
(With inputs from Tiruchy, Ariyalur, Dindigul, Pudukottai and Vellore)