CHENNAI: Income tax officials today seized Rs. 24 crore in new 2,000-rupee notes from a car in Vellore, 130 km from Chennai, after questioning mining baron Sekhar Reddy, one of the three businessmen income tax raids at whose properties had unearthed 142 crores in cash and gold last week.
This adds up to Rs. 166 crore, the biggest recovery of disproportionate assets since the November 8 ban on 500- and 1,000-rupee notes in a single case.
The Rs. 142 crore seized earlier – during searches at multiple locations in Chennai for the last two days – includes about Rs. 10 crore in new notes and gold bars weighing 127 kg.
On Friday, nearly 100 tax officials raided at least eight places in Chennai and Vellore based on a tip-off about major tax evasion.
The main suspects are two prominent businessmen, Sekhar Reddy and Srinivas Reddy (they are related and have large interests in sand mining), and a man identified as Prem, who operated as the representative or agent of their firms.
“The group has sand mining licence for the entire state of Tamil Nadu. During the search, Rs. 96.89 crore cash in old high denomination notes and Rs. 9.63 crore in new Rs. 2,000 currency notes along with gold weighing 127 kg worth approximately Rs. 36.29 crore were found and seized, as unaccounted assets,” the Central Board of Direct Taxes, policy-making body for the I-T department, had said in a statement issued in Delhi.
The statement added that searches were “still in progress at four out of the total 8 premises and more specific details including modus operandi would emerge after examination of the documents and other evidence detected during the search.”
Officials said the agency was investigating how the new notes in such a large quantity were stashed by the individual. The bundles of the new Rs. 2,000, that were seized, had no banking slips on the them and were jumbled up to mislead investigators, they said.
Sekhar Reddy is a member of the trust that runs the uber-wealthy Tirumala temple in Tirupati, one of the reasons why he has access to top leaders of the government. Last month, he visited Apollo Hospital bearing prasadam from the temple for then Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa. After Ms Jayalalithaa’s death on Monday, her trusted lieutenant O Panneerselvam was made Chief Minister.
Officials had said Mr Reddy has claimed the entire money and the gold as his own.
Last year, new Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Panneerselvam was photographed at the Tirupati Temple with Sekhar Reddy as his escort. While refusing to comment on the entrepreneur’s apparently close links to top party leaders, an AIADMK source said, “Sekhar was only receiving the minister as a board member, there’s nothing more to it.” He was removed from the board of Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam following his arrest.