The Enforcement Directorate's (ED) probe into illegal sand mining in the state recently took an interesting turn with the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) government moving the Madras High Court against summons issued to District Collectors.
The move came a couple of months after the ED raided sand mining yards across the state.
During the searches, it found incriminating documents including diaries, fake sale receipts with counterfeit QR codes and evidence of benami companies. Rs 12.82 Crore was put under freeze and unaccounted cash for Rs. 2.33 Crore was seized along with gold weighing 1024.6 grams worth Rs 56.86 Lakh.
According to a report by The Hindu, the government's contentions were that the ED's action amounted to interference by a central investigating agency into matters that were part of the exclusive domain of the state government, illegal sand mining is not a scheduled offence under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) and that the state government's consent should have been taken.
During the hearing today (27 November), the ED submitted an affidavit stating that the total sale value of the excess sand mined illegally in the past 1-2 years is Rs 4730 crores, while the recorded revenue was merely Rs 36.45 crores.
A picture of a page of the affidavit, which was shared by a number of users on X (formerly Twitter), stated that the survey was conducted using technologies like drones, LIDAR surveys, bathymetric surveys and satellite imagery from ISRO, which concluded that 24 lakh units of sand were mined illegally and 987.01 hectares was mined instead of the permitted 195.37 hectares.
The decision to move the High Court was questioned by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) state president K Annamalai who said that it was a jittery move by those who had a lot to hide.
While the Court will rule on the state government's plea tomorrow (28 November), the DMK does find itself in a spot of bother as the agency might soon summon Water Resources Minister Duraimurugan, who is also the party’s general secretary. (The Water Resources Ministry controls sand mining in the state).
The ED recently summoned his son Kathir Anand in a different case regarding cash seized from the residence of Duraimurugan and his associate during the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Anand is the Vellore MP.
Other ministers and second-rung leaders of the party could also be summoned as it is a statewide probe.
Adding to the difficulties of Duraimurugan, is the issue that Gudiyatham Kumaran, a deputy secretary for policy propagation of the DMK, has stated that he (Duraimurugan) had amassed Rs 60000 crore through illegal sand mining and that he would release evidence soon. Kumaran has been suspended from the party.
Even as it remains to be seen as to what happens with the probe into illegal sand mining, a number of senior DMK ministers and leaders are already under the scanner of the ED and Income Tax department.
The ED has filed a chargesheet against Senthil Balaji and P Gowtham Sigamani, the son of K Ponmudy and the party's MP from Kallakurichi.
While the chargesheet against Balaji was for his alleged role in the cash-for-jobs scam during his tenure as Transport minister, Ponmudy is accused of laundering the proceeds from excessive mining of red sand. He (Ponmudy) has been summoned again by the ED.
The Income Tax department found tax evasion running into hundreds of crores after searches in the premises of DMK MP S Jagathrakshakan and his associates.
In November, it raided the premises of Public Works and Highways Minister EV Velu. The raids lasted around five days.
All of these are likely to strengthen the anti-incumbency sentiment and affect the DMK’s electoral performance in 2024.
S Rajesh is Staff Writer at Swarajya.
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