The Directorate General of Income Tax (Investigation) on Thursday conducted searches at business and commercial establishments and residences of film personalities, whose movies were slated to be released for Deepavali.

On the list were film producers R.B. Choudhary, A.M. Rathnam, Gnanavel Raja and actor Santhanam. The searches were carried out in 23 places in Chennai, and a residence in Hyderabad that led to seizure of cash and confiscation of documents.

Officials conducted searches in Coimbatore and Salem. Sources said that raids were also conducted in Tiruchi, Madurai and Tirunelveli. About 100 IT personnel were involved in Thursday’s dawn to dusk operation.

On condition of anonymity, an official said that the searches were conducted based on information that some producers had unaccounted cash, while an actor was being paid an exorbitant sum on a daily basis. “We are told that the industry needs cash for only a short period as the distributor can make quick money if the movies of big stars and big banners are released, especially during the festivals such as Deepavali and Pongal. While some of them are maintaining records properly, others lend money on trust. Right now, four cases can be booked on them. But we cannot quantify the illegal money in circulation,” the official said.

In the last few months, IT officials have zeroed in on high-flyers, particularly those involved in the business of real estate, jewellery, hotels and restaurants, educational institutions and film distribution. Thursday’s operation is said to be on the same lines, even though top IT officials were not willing to comment on the development. For the current year, the department has set an internal target to collect taxes of Rs.2,000 crore.