NEW DELHI, Aug 5 (PTI): Unaccounted valuables worth more than Rs 16 lakh and Rs 22 lakh in cash were allegedly recovered from the premises of a driver after fresh searches were conducted against Tamil Nadu minister V Senthil Balaji and others in connection with a money laundering probe, the Enforcement Directorate said on Saturday.
The searches were undertaken on August 3 in Coimbatore and Karur districts of the state, covering nine locations linked to Balaji, who is currently lodged at Puzhal central jail in Chennai under judicial custody.
Balaji (47) continues to be a minister without portfolio in M K Stalin-led Tamil Nadu government. He was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on June 14 in the money laundering case linked to the alleged cash-for-jobs scam in the state transport department.
The ED said it undertook the fresh raids after it got “intelligence inputs” that Balaji’s “close associate” S T Saminathan “possessed incriminating documents/proceeds of crime and was attempting to hide/transfer them”.
Saminathan’s premises were raided and it was found that his sister-in-law Shanthi was “acting as his benami and was seen moving bags containing documents and valuables”.
As a result, the agency said ED teams covered Shanthi’s premises, but she was not present there.
CCTV footage showed that the bags had been handed over to a driver identified as Shiva, the agency said.
When Shiva’s house was searched, the ED said he was not present there and had turned off his mobile phone after he got to know about the searches at Shanti’s house.
“During the search at Shiva’s residence, cash amounting to Rs 22 lakh and unaccounted valuables worth Rs 16.6 lakh along with unexplained property documents for 60 land parcels were found,” the ED claimed.
The agency said Shanthi was a housewife and had no source of income, adding that she did not cooperate and participate in the search proceedings.
The agency said the driver Shiva, in his statement, “admitted” that Shanthi gave him the bags “out of fear that incriminating details would be discovered”.
“It appears that the seized property and cash belong to Saminathan,” the ED alleged.
The federal probe agency told the Supreme Court on Wednesday that Balaji was preventing it from exercising its right of custodial interrogation and bringing out the truth, and the apex court reserved its verdict on the pleas of the DMK leader and his spouse challenging his arrest.
The top court on July 21 sought the ED’s response on the petitions filed by Balaji and his wife Megala challenging the July 14 order of the Madras High Court upholding his arrest by the probe agency in the money laundering case.
The couple has filed two separate petitions in the top court challenging the high court order.
The Madras High Court on Friday reserved orders on writ petitions related to Balaji’s continuance in the Cabinet despite his arrest and the withheld move by Tamil Nadu Governor R N Ravi to dismiss him from the Council of Ministers.
The ED had earlier claimed that Balaji allegedly “misused” his office for illegal gratification and “engineered” a job racket scam in the state transport undertakings during 2014-15 with purported kickbacks paid by candidates through his associates that include R V Ashok Kumar and B Shanmugam.
The ED filed a case of money laundering in September 2021 to probe these allegations and its complaint is based on three Tamil Nadu Police FIRs filed during 2018 and some later years by some of those who failed to get the promised jobs.