OFFICIALS FROM the Income-Tax department’s investigation wing in Chennai claimed to have recovered Rs 90 crore in cash, including Rs 10 crore in new notes of Rs 2,000, and 100 kg of gold from a number of businessmen, including Shekar Reddy, who is said to be associated with the ruling AIADMK and a top IAS officer in Tamil Nadu.
According to an I-T official, the cash and gold were seized in a series of raids that were still on late Thursday. “We are taking stock of the currency and gold. The total amount of gold seized is estimated to be worth over Rs 28 crore. The raids were initially conducted at seven locations and will take a few more hours to complete as they have been extended to a dozen other places, including jewellers, offices of real-estate consultancies, contractors and hotels in Chennai city,” said the official.
Multiple teams, comprising 20-25 officials each, launched the raids simultaneously in locations, including T Nagar, Teynampet and Anna Nagar, on Thursday morning, said officials.
The raids, particularly on Reddy, have raised eyebrows in Tamil Nadu’s political circles, with a senior AIADMK functionary telling The Indian Express that the businessman was a member of the party. The functionary, who spoke on condition of anonymity, described the raids as “another shock for the AIADMK leadership” after the death Monday of J Jayalalithaa.
Reddy is also a member of the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD) board in Tirupati. “He started his business career as a civil contractor. He was also involved in the sand-quarry business and had bagged some contracts from Southern Railways. But he was denied a seat from Vellore in the last general elections by Amma,” the AIADMK functionary claimed.
In 2014, Reddy was seen with O Panneerselvam, now the chief minister, when he visited the Tirupati temple as a gesture of thanksgiving following the release of Jayalalithaa from a Bengaluru prison after imprisonment in a disproportionate assets case.
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Reddy had also visited Apollo Hospitals in Chennai last month with ‘prasadam’ (offering) from Tirupati for Jayalalithaa who was undergoing treatment there.
Providing details of the seizures, the I-T official said that 70 kg of gold was seized from a leading hotel in Teynampet, where rooms were allegedly booked by associates of Reddy, while Rs 6 crore in Rs 2,000 notes were recovered from the businessman’s residence in T Nagar.
The other businessmen raided included Srinivasa Reddy, another prominent name in Chennai’s business community, and agents who were allegedly working with them in running an illegal money-exchange racket.
”At least five officials with two leading private sector banks are being summoned for allegedly arranging new notes,” said the I-T official.
The official said the raids were initiated after an illegal money-exchange agent, identified only as Prem, was taken in custody. “Besides bribing bank officials to get new currency notes, Prem was exchanging old currency notes for gold bars. His arrest led us to Reddy and his associates,” said the official.