Chennai: Income tax (I-T) officials conducted sweeping raids on properties belonging to family members of jailed and sidelined All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) leader V. K. Sasikala across Tamil Nadu and three other states on Thursday.
Over 1,800 officials inspected 187 locations in Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, Karnataka and Delhi.
I-T officials said the raids under ‘Operation Clean Money’ targeted shell firms belonging to 10 groups, including those run by members of Sasikala family.
A farmhouse belonging to Sasikala’s nephew T.T.V. Dhinakaran near Puducherry was raided, as was former chief minister the late J. Jayalalithaa’s Kodand estate.
Dhinakaran said: “The I-T raids are a clear signal of political vendetta. The central government is behind these raids. People who don’t want us to remain in politics are threatening us through I-T raids.” “If they’re conducting raids for speaking against demonetisation, I’ll repeat it. They can’t scare us with raids,” he said.
Referring to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at the centre, he said, “I will not allow the party that is behind these raids to get established in Tamil Nadu.”
The raids began around 6am on Thursday in Chennai at the offices of AIADMK mouthpiece Nammadhu MGR and Jaya TV. I-T officials searched the residence of Sasikala’s nephew Vivek Jayaraman, who controls Jaya TV and Jazz Cinemas that are owned by her family members.
Following the factional divide in the ruling AIADMK, Jaya TV has been critical of the government led by chief minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami and deputy chief minister O. Panneerselvam.
Raid locations included Thanjavur, Thiruvarur, Trichy, Coimbatore and other districts at properties belonging to Sasikala’s family members and associates.
There have been accusations that the BJP at the centre has threatened the AIADMK through “selective I-T raids” since Jayalalithaa’s death last December.
Opposition leader and the working president of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) M.K. Stalin on Thursday sought an explanation on the I-T raids that have taken place in Tamil Nadu over the last one year.
“The Union minister under whom income tax department falls and other officials must explain the reason behind the frequent I-T raids in Tamil Nadu,” said Stalin.
The state secretary of the Communist Party of India (CPI), R. Mutharasan, termed the raids as a case of abuse of official machinery.
In August, after the merger of Palaniswami and Panneerselvam factions, the AIADMK passed a resolution to retrieve the properties of Jaya TV and Namadhu MGR.
The I-T raids were still on when this report was filed.