Income Tax raids targeting top players in Tamil film industry, which began on Wednesday morning, continued on Thursday. The department stated that the searches led to evidence that nearly Rs 300 crore income was allegedly concealed.
In all, 38 locations in Chennai and Madurai — owned by AGS Cinemas, film financier Anbu Chezhiyan, and actor Vijay, one of the top stars in Tamil film industry, were searched over the last two days, the department said.
A large number of property documents, promissory notes and postdated cheques taken as collateral security, among others, were recovered during the search and these have been seized, it was informed.
“As per evidence detected during the search, it is estimated that the concealment in this case is likely to exceed Rs 300 crore,” the I-T department stated.
Searches started on Wednesday morning at the premises of AGS Cinemas and Chezhiyan, and led to Vijay by noon, when I-T sleuths arrived at a film set in Neyveli, 200 km south of Chennai, where the actor was shooting for the under-production Master. After questioning him for two hours, I-T officers took Vijay to Chennai for further inquiries.
Parallel searches held at premises owned by Chezhiyan and AGS Cinemas reportedly seized unaccounted cash and documents of properties and other assets. Searches at Vijay’s residences, and his questioning, was going on even on Thursday evening.
Without naming anyone, the I-T department stated, “The common thread among all these entities was the success of a recent film, which was a box office hit, collecting around Rs 300 crore. About 38 premises of the group were covered in search and survey actions spread over Chennai and Madurai.”
It was an apparent reference to the film Bigil, in which all three had a stake — AGS Cinemas was the producer, Chezhiyan had reportedly funded it, and Vijay was the lead actor.
“The highlight of the search is seizure of unaccounted cash of about Rs 77 crore from hideouts and secret places located at Chennai and Madurai, purportedly belonging to the financier,” the department stated.
Earlier on Thursday, I-T officials informally shared images of currency bundles stacked in multiple travel bags, apparently indicating that they were seized from one of the premises of Chezhiyan.
A senior I-T official said Vijay was added to the list after the search operation was launched to probe Chezhiyan, who funded not only Vijay’s Bigil but also had a stake in Rajinikanth’s last film, Darbar, and several other big-ticket projects. Three days ago, distributors of Darbar protested outside Rajinikanth’s residence in Chennai’s Poes Garden, seeking compensation for losses they suffered after the film failed at the box office.
Meanwhile, as pressure mounted on Rajinikanth from the distributors, filmmaker A R Murugadoss, who directed Darbar, on Thursday moved the Madras High Court seeking police protection from alleged threats from distributors. He stated that over two dozen people, who claimed to be distributors, trespassed into his residence and demanded compensation for their losses.
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