KARUR/CHENNAI: As part of the crackdown on the use of unaccounted money in electioneering, police and IT officials on Friday conducted raids on the premises of a businessman at Ayyampalayam near Karur and seized Rs 4.8 crore, an Rsambulance’ and 12 currency counting machines. The seized van with fake registration number had been done up to look like an ambulance with a Government of India sticker on its front windshield and logo of the National Rural Health Mission on either side.
The owner of the premises, CP Anbunathan, is a businessman and is said to be a close associate of a leading politician in the state. Apparently, the politician exerted pressure on both police and revenue officials all through the day to force them to call off the raid.
A senior police officer in Chennai told TOI that based on a tip-off, chief electoral officer Rajesh Lakhoni ordered Karur SP Vanditha Pandey to search Anbunathan’s garage. The garage is located opposite his house on Karur-Salem stretch of NH7. Anbunathan, who was contacted by police, could not give any reason for the presence of a government ambulance at his garage. There was a locker also at the garage. Since Anbunathan did not turn up, his employees were made to open the locker and Rs 10.3 lakh was seized.
Police found currency counting machines, electoral rolls, several empty corrugated boxes and rubber bands (used for bundling cash) at the garage. Apart from the ambulance, there were four cars, a tractor and an SUV with a government registration. Inquiries revealed the registration number of the van was fake. It was actually allotted to a woman’s car in Cuddalore district. Police shifted the van to Velayuthampalayam police station and are trying to find out where Anbunathan bought and renovated it. As initial investigation yielded information that huge amount of unaccounted money was kept at Anbunathan’s house, across the highway, income tax officials were pressed into service to carry forward the search. The IT investigation wing officials from Karur and nearby districts, led by deputy director (investigation) Manikandan, who reached the spot around noon, waited for the house owner to turn up. They searched the house after Anbunathan arrived. “Our officials seized Rs 4.7 crore from the house,” said a top IT official.
Apparently, Anbunathan’s house and garage were being used to store money and dispatch it to various locations. An Rsambulance’ was used for transportation to avoid police checks. It is learnt that Anbunathan’s brother-in-law had died under mysterious circumstances in Dindigul two weeks ago.
Till late in the night on Friday, the Karur police had not registered any case against Anbunathan as no revenue official was forthcoming with an official complaint. In such cases of seizure, unless revenue officials prefer complaints, police cannot register a case.
Meanwhile, DMK has preferred complaints with Rajesh Lakhoni and the Election Commission, charging that Karur collector T P Rajesh had helped a candidate in Krishnarayapuram go scot free after her vehicle was seized by revenue officials with Rs 10 lakh on April 18.
Chief Election Commissioner E Nasim Zaidi told TOI that the commission had prior information that money was being transported by political parties in police vehicles and ambulances. “On Friday, we got a specific information about money kept in an ambulance, and we took immediate action,” said Zaidi.