Rs 1.48 crore cash seized from TTV Dhinakaran’s party worker in Tamil Nadu’s Theni

Income Tax department officials seized Rs 1.48 crore of unaccounted cash from a worker of TTV Dhinakaran’s party AMMK in Tamil Nadu’s Theni district on Wednesday night.

The income tax department has seized unaccounted cash worth Rs 1.48 crore after an overnight search at a shop of a worker of TTV Dhinakaran’s AMMK in Andipatti near Tamil Nadu’s Theni ahead of assembly by-polls, officials said on Wednesday.

This comes after the Lok Sabha election to the Vellore constituency in the southern state was cancelled on Tuesday after officials recovered huge amounts of cash from a building allegedly linked to a prominent Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) leader last week. The cash seizure of Rs 11.53 crore was the biggest from a single location till date during the election season.

The police have also detained four Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam workers for restraining the officials from entering the premise at Andipatti, where a by-poll is scheduled to be held on Thursday.

“After we got information that a huge amount of unaccounted cash has been kept in a shop owned by an AMMK worker, we raided it. During the nine-hour-long raid, the I-T department seized the cash packed in 92 covers,” Pallavi Baldev, returning officer and Theni district collector, said.

The ward numbers, voters’ names and address were written on each and every cover which were filled with cash. They had planned to give Rs 300 to each voter, said sources with the EC.

According to the I-T department’s officials, they launched the raid at around on Tuesday to 5.30am on Wednesday.

According to news agency PTI, I-T department’s director general (investigations) B Murali Kumar said the “sworn statement of the person present in the premises was recorded and he said that Rs 2 crore in cash was brought in there for distribution to voters in Andipatti panchayat union area on April 16.”

The shopkeeper fled the spot after downing the shutter when the team, comprised officials of the Election Commission-appointed surveillance squad and the I-T department, arrived at the shop. An argument broke out between AMMK workers and the officials and police had to open fire during the raids to disperse the party’s supporters, who objected to the action being taken. No one was injured in the firing, officials said.

“When I-T and EC officials tried to access the shop, a gang blocked them. A few also tried for run-away with cash bundles. Therefore, the police force which accompanied the officials opened fire in the air as a precautionary measure,” Baldev said.

A detailed report has been sent to Election Commission and income tax department in New Delhi, she said.

The AMMK’s Andippati constituency by-poll candidate K Jayakumar denied the charge, saying that the cash was seized from an office of the ruling AIADMK.

“We have not kept any money in our place. As we had noticed that the AIADMK’s workers have kept money, we informed the flying squad of EC. However, they are accusing us,” said Jayakumar.

I-T department officials also conducted searches in DMK’s senior leader and candidate K for the Thoothukkudi Lok Sabha seat Kanimozhi’s residence and office on Tuesday night.

This is not the first time an election has been countermanded on charges of bribing voters in Tamil Nadu.

The by-elections in the RK Nagar seat, held by former chief minister J Jayalalithaa, was cancelled in 2017 after bribery charges. In 2016, the commission had cancelled polling in Thanjavur and Aravakurichi assembly constituencies after the AIADMK and DMK were alleged to have been bribing voters.

All the 39 Lok Sabha constituencies in Tamil Nadu go to polls on April 18. Elections are also being held on 22 assembly seats that are vacant in the state in two phases on April 18 and May 19. The counting of votes will be held on May 23.

Source: Hindustan Times