‘Tirupur’s Ramalingam purchased bills worth $5 billion for gold bonds from a person based in Brazil’

Documents seized from T.M. Ramalingam of Tirupur district in Tamil Nadu on December 31 were international bills of exchange with a face value of $5 billion and not U.S. treasury bonds, I-T officials probing the seizure said on Friday.

According to Additional Director of Income Tax (Investigation) S. Murali Mohan, the I-T officials seized five documents with a face value of $1 billion each and said the businessman claimed to have purchased these bills of exchange by exchanging gold bonds he already had with him (worth $5 billion) with a person based in Brazil.

Mr. Ramalingam appeared at the Office of the Director General of Income Tax (Investigation) following a summons issued to him following the search of his premises in Dharapuram last week. Mr. Mohan and Deputy Director of Income Tax S. Anbuselvam grilled Mr. Ramalingam for nine hours from 11.45 a.m. onwards.

Talking to reporters, Mr. Mohan said they were verifying the authenticity of the document with U.S. authorities through the Union government and the truth would be out next week. Moreover, Mr. Ramalingam had given varying versions to the investigating officials at different points of time and they were verifying which one was correct.

“For the last four years, Mr. Ramalingam has not filed I-T returns. So there is no question of disclosures. Possessing huge bills of exchange and not making any disclosure to the department is against the law. We are also probing whether he was acting as a front for someone. He had some fixed deposit receipts in a bank locker. Apart from that we have not made any seizure at his home,” Mr. Mohan said.

“The grilling session is over and Mr. Ramalingam need not appear before us on Saturday. We have sent the documents to New Delhi for verification as there is a set procedure to verify documents belonging to other countries and we don’t want to break the rules and the results would be out next week,” said another I-T official.

Mr. Ramalingam arrived, along with his lawyer Elango, at the income tax office here well before 10 a.m. Mr. Elango and his assistant were asked to sit outside while they questioned Mr. Ramalingam.

Talking to The Hindu, Mr. Elango said he did not expect such treatment from the I-T officials as he was prevented from helping his client (Mr. Ramalingam) in the hour of need.

Asked whether Mr. Ramalingam planned to pledge these documents with financial institutions to raise money, he said the bills of exchange could not be pledged.

As to whether Mr. Ramalingam had purchased these bills of exchange or they were transferred to him by someone else, he refused to give details, merely claiming that all the documents were legal.

M. Soundariya Preetha and V.S. Palaniappan add from Coimbatore:

No company registered

Mr. Ramalingam may attract investigation from other government departments too. An official source says Mr. Ramalingam had not registered any company with the Registrar of Companies (RoC), Coimbatore, so far. [Mr. Ramalingam told The Hindu on Thursday that he formed a company in 2010 to establish a petroleum refinery at Thondi]. The subject was expected to come up for discussion at the regional economic intelligence committee meeting.

If Mr. Ramalingam was associated with any corporate entity and, if necessary, the RoC would consider initiating an investigation. “We wanted to ascertain if he is associated with any corporate,” the official said.

According to the Dharapuram police, there is one case of cheating against Mr. Ramalingam under investigation, based on a complaint filed by Kaliyaperumal of Mannargudi in 2011 accusing the former of having cheated the latter to the tune of Rs. 5,500.

In addition, there are three petitions at the inquiry stage, sources said.

With the recent I-T raid, the police are also contemplating expediting the investigations.