CHENNAI — In a massive operation across Tamil Nadu and neighboring states involving around 1,800 officials, the Income Tax Department Nov. 9 conducted raids at the premises of – among others – close relatives of jailed All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam leader V.K. Sasikala and her nephew T.T.V. Dinakaran.
Those raided included not only the AIADMK leaders' close relatives, but also business houses and other associates, a tax official who did not wanted to be identified told IANS. The raids, which began at 6:00 a.m., were one of the biggest single-day operations, comprising officials from 10 teams across Tamil Nadu, including the state capital Chennai, Bengaluru in Karnataka, Hyderabad and Delhi, among other places.
The senior official said the searches were conducted in connection with unexplained routing of cash post-demonetization through shell companies allegedly connected to Sasikala and Dinakaran.
He said the Income Tax Department will look at the routing of funds within India whereas other agencies will look into the routing of money outside India.
The places raided included the Thanjavur residence of M. Natarajan, Sasikala's husband; the Kodanad Tea Estate, which belong to late Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa; Jazz Cinemas; Midas Distilleries; Sharada Paper and Boards; the Senthil Group of Companies; Nilgiri Furniture in Coimbatore; Jaya TV; Namadhu MGR and several other premises in Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, Hyderabad and Bengaluru.
The operation was kept secret – so much so that the raiding tax officials hired private cabs and pasted wedding stickers on the windscreens of vehicles involved in the operation so as not to arouse suspicion.
Dinakaran dubbed the raids "politically motivated" and said he will not be frightened by such actions from the Center, adding that the officials knocked at their door when his wife was preparing for cow puja.
"Even if I am arrested and jailed for 20 years, I will come out and serve the state at the age of 74," he remarked.
Jaya TV, a satellite channel, and the Namadhu MGR Tamil daily, a mouthpiece of the AIADMK, are now under the management control of the Sasikala faction.
Prior to Jayalalithaa's death, both showcased the achievements of the AIADMK and the state. However, after the party broke into factions led by Chief Minister K. Palaniswami, former Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam – who later became deputy chief minister after merging his faction with Palaniswami's – and Sasikala and Dinakaran, they promoted only the Sasikala-Dinakaran faction.
Panneerselvam, after becoming the deputy chief minister, demanded the takeover of the two media outlets by the ruling faction.
A lawyer for Jaya TV charged officials with threatening the channel's staff with a shut-down of transmission, which he said was tantamount to "curbing the freedom of speech and expression."
Dinakaran's supporter Nanjil Sampath said the raids were not surprising since the ruling faction wanted to take over Jaya TV and Namadhu MGR "owned by private companies."
Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam Working President M.K. Stalin said there were no answers to questions raised on earlier tax raids on AIADMK leaders and other organizations.
Tamil Maanila Congress President G.K. Vasan demanded that the Center and the Income Tax Department explain the truth behind the raids and said the action should not be motivated by political reasons or some hidden agenda.
Rajya Sabha MP R. Vaithilingam of the ruling AIADMK faction said the raids had nothing to do with the party symbol case pending with the Election Commission for adjudication.
Both the Sasikala-Dinakaran and Palaniswami-Panneerselvam factions are claiming the 'two leaves' election symbol and also the party name.
The Bharatiya Janata Party's Tamil Nadu leader Tamilisai Soundararajan denied her party's role in the Nov. 9 raids and said the operation was a result of "information on tax evasion."