Despite repeated ED summons Senthilbalaji’s brother Ashok Kumar remains elusive

Kumar, referred to as ‘Chinnavar’ in the DMK circles in Karur and supporters of Mr. Senthilbalaji, is the second accused in the ‘cash for jobs’ case registered by the Central Crime Branch, Chennai

Updated - August 18, 2023 07:34 am IST

Published - August 17, 2023 11:17 pm IST - KARUR

Despite multiple summonses from the Directorate of Enforcement (ED), V. Ashok Kumar, brother of jailed Minister V. Senthilbalaji, remains elusive for more than two-and-half months.

Mr. Ashok Kumar, referred to as ‘Chinnavar’ (younger brother) in the DMK circles in Karur and supporters of Mr. Senthilbalaji, is the second accused in the ‘cash for job’ case registered by the Central Crime Branch (CCB), Chennai. Mr. Senthilbalaji, the prime accused, is alleged to have offered jobs in the transport corporations in lieu of cash when he was the Transport Minister in collaboration with Ashok Kumar and personal assistants B. Shanmugam and M. Karthikeyyan.

The last public appearance of Mr. Ashok Kumar was reported in Karur in the third week of May. Income Tax officials, who carried out eight-day-long searches, beginning May 26 on the premises of persons linked to Mr. Senthilbalaji in Karur, served a summon on Mr. Ashok Kumar May 30. But, he failed to appear before the officials. Since then he has proved to be elusive.

Since the last week of May, I-T and the ED officials have carried out seven rounds of searches in Karur. Of them, three were by the ED. Except for the ancestral house at Rameswarapatti on the outskirts of Karur, where the Minister’s father Velusamy and mother Rukmani live, most of the properties of Mr. Senthilbalaji and Ashok Kumar remain locked. There is hardly any movement in the bungalow of Mr. Ashok Kumar at Ramakrishnapuram, where the I-T officials were reportedly manhandled by the DMK workers on May 26.

Mr. Ashok Kumar, 45, married to Nirmala of Manmangalam, was running a small textile unit at Ramakrishnapuram along with Mr. Senthilbalaji when the latter was an MLA between 2006 and 2011. The unit ceased to exist after Mr. Senthilbalaji was made as Transport Minister in the Jayalalithaa government in 2011. After that, Mr Ashok Kumar began assisting his brother in mobilising crowds for the AIADMK’s public meetings and in electioneering. Though he remained in the background until Jayalalithaa was in power, he is alleged to have worked in tandem with Mr. Senthilbalaji in taking decisions on filling various posts in the Transport Department between 2011 and 2015.

Mr. Ashok Kumar’s influence came out in open in political circles, the Karur district administration and in some departments after Mr. Senthilbalaji was appointed Minister for Electricity, Excise and Prohibition in the DMK government in 2021. Critics claimed Mr. Ashok Kumar handled financial dealings, finalising contracts, postings and others. They charged he was a shadow power centre in Karur. He reportedly patronised a group of supported referred in political circles as the ‘Karur Gang.’ This group was accused of collecting revenue from illegal bars attached with the Tasmac outlets.

Amid rumours that he was detained by the ED last week, the agency clarified that he remains elusive. The ED also said Mr Ashok Kumar, his wife and mother-in-law, were not extending cooperation to the agency. It recently froze a 2.49 acre property belonging to his family in Karur on which a palatial bungalow was being constructed.

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