Lodha’s scalp may open Pandora’s box


CHENNAI: The arrest of Kolkata-based realtor Parasmal Lodha by Enforcement Directorate (ED) in Delhi on Thursday sent shivers down the spine of many politicians across parties, along with their `benamis’ and conduits in Tamil Nadu who had financial dealings with him.
Lodha’s arrest is linked to his converting about Rs 25 crore in demonetised currencies into new Rs 2,000 notes for Chennai-based sand mining baron J Shekhar Reddy and Delhi lawyer Rohit Tandon. However, his name had figured during an earlier I-T raid on Karurbased businessman C P Anbunathan in the run-up to the Tamil Nadu assembly elections in April this year.
Tax sleuths could seize only Rs 4.87 crore from Anbunathan’s premises, but his laptop and cellphone secured during the raids gave proof of several prominent politicians having parked thousands of crores of rupees both in India and abroad, through Anbunathan and Lodha.
A sizeable share of these investments were proceeds from the controversial coal imports that left the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board bleeding for years. The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, investigating the import scam, made significant inroads by arresting one of the kingpins, Manoj Kumar Garg, earlier this year.
Investigating officials believe Garg and Anbunathan are close business associates and have purchased an independent commercial building at Dera in Dubai for about 1,700 crore for a prominent politician. It is one of the very few free-holding buildings in central Dubai, said an official.
“Anbunathan had invested heavily in a bank in Bangkok and used to interact with one of the directors of that bank for hours together,” said an official who analysed his computer and call records.
The Anbunathan case has since then been taken over by the ED for probing the money laundering angle. “Lodha was a frequent visitor to Tamil Nadu after the AIADMK returned to power in 2011 and it was he who introduced Anbunathan to some big industrialists in the country , who later developed business interests in TN,” said an official privy to the investigation.
But the probe into the Anbunathan episode did face some hiccups. A prominent police official in Tamil Nadu, who was to be questioned in connection with his business links with Anbunathan, has so far managed to evade the ED officials.

Reddy , Anbunathan and Lodha would open up a treasure trove of information on many underhand dealings that happened in the state administration during the past five years, said an I-T official.
“Many politicians and about two dozen senior and influential IAS and IPS officers, both serving and retired, are under the scanner of the I-T, the CBI and the ED for their links with these three. We are keeping a watch on some more middlemen,” said the official.