In simultaneous searches at 18 places in Tamil Nadu on Thursday, the Central Bureau of Investigation seized 33 imported luxury cars on charges of tax evasion, sources in the investigating agency said.

The timing of the operation came sharply under question in political circles, as among the premises searched were the houses of Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam president M. Karunanidhi’s sons, M.K. Stalin and M.K. Alagiri, who was a Union Minister until a day earlier. The operation came a day after the DMK pulled out of the United Progressive Alliance. CBI officials claimed that the searches were a routine procedure and not aimed at any individual.

Searches were carried out on the premises of prominent personalities and industrialists in and around Chennai, where the cars were seized. However, vehicles suspected to have been used by the family members of the two DMK leaders could not be located. A team searched Mr. Stalin’s house based on information that his son Udhayanidhi Stalin was using an imported car. Searches were also conducted at Mr. Alagiri’s house at Injambakkam, near here, the sources said.

On Wednesday, the CBI registered a case against car importer Alex C Joseph, Senior Intelligence Officer in the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) Muruganandham and others on the basis of an input that luxury cars were imported and sold in the State in violation of established norms, thereby causing a loss of Rs. 48 crore to the exchequer. Though the DRI launched a probe a couple of years ago, no action was taken to recover the tax evaded or confiscate the vehicles.

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