A resident of Dharapuram for the last 17 years, T.M. Ramalingam, who has come under national focus after the Income tax Department raid of his residence, offers a bizarre explanation for what appears to be U.S. bonds worth $ 5 billion seized from him. He said that he was raising funds for an ambitious petroleum refinery product in Tamil Nadu.

He has an office-cum-residence on an 86-cent plot along the Dharapuram-Palani road and rented out 27 cents of the plot to a petrol bunk. Though his annual income from trade and rentals is about Rs. 3 lakh, he wants to establish a petroleum product refinery project worth thousands of crores at Thondi in the Ramanathapuram district. He submitted a proposal to the Centre about a year ago for approval.

Mr. Ramalingam had formed a private company for this purpose in 2010 with an initial investment of Rs. 15 lakh and was trying to raise funds for the project. He was also looking out for land (about 1,000 acres) for the project.

He purchased the international bills of exchange of face value $ 5 billion in his name through a mediator, a little more than a year ago, as part of the fund raising for the project, he said . “I did not think of bank loan for the project as the interest rates are high. I wanted to bring in foreign investors for the project,” he said . “I have followed all rules and hence, I do not have to worry.” He travelled to Singapore and Dubai in the last four years.

He said that his recent purchase of a sport utility vehicle worth Rs. 17 lakh, without any loan, and the proposal for the refinery could have probably triggered suspicion of the I-T authorities. “I am not associated with any politician and I never made any attempt to liquidate the bills of exchange,” he said in his defence.

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