Tracking the probe on Sekhar Reddy's illegal money trail — Gold, cash and murky deals

TN sand baron Sekhar Reddy’s associate arrested at Mumbai airport

Kolkata-based businessman Paras Mal Lodha is produced at the Saket Court in Delhi on Thursday. The Enforcement Directorate arrested him for allegedly converting more than Rs. 25 crore of old notes into new ones in connivance with international hawala operators.  

The investigation that followed the arrest of J. Sekhar Reddy, Chennai-based sand mining baron and expelled Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams board member, has turned into a pan-India exercise with multiple central agencies cracking down on his alleged associates.

On Thursday, a day after the Income Tax Department conducted extensive searches at the houses and offices of former Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary P. Rama Mohana Rao and others, the CBI arrested three suspected associates of Mr. Reddy in Chennai.

Separately, the Enforcement Directorate on Tuesday night arrested Kolkata-based businessman Paras Mal Lodha, who is also linked to Mr. Reddy, at the Mumbai airport for allegedly converting more than Rs. 25 crore of demonetised notes into new ones in connivance with international hawala operators.

Though the I-T Department completed its search operations at Mr. Rao’s premises, taxmen continued to search the offices belonging to his son, Vivek Papisetty.

Papers found

One of the premises searched on Chamiers Road in Nandanam housed Mr. Papisetty’s three companies — Trans Earth Logistics, Blue Ocean Personnel and Allied Services Private Limited and Virtu Technologies. Mr. Papisetty is also the managing director of 3LOK Infra and Logistics Private Limited, which has its registered office in Bengaluru.

A senior officer from the I-T Department-Investigations Wing, said, “We are scrutinising how his [Vivek’s] companies were funded. We have found some papers and are going through it.”

The taxmen simultaneously covered three more people — Kalyanasundaram, Chairman of State Level Environment Impact Assessment Authority; Gopu Rajagopal ; and Amalanathan who, according to taxmen, is into “liaison” work.

At Mr. Kalyanasundaram’s house, officials unearthed “undisclosed income” to the tune of Rs. 1.07 crore. The I-T team could not find anything at Mr. Amalanathan’s office in Kodambakkam, but it found Rs. 6 lakh of demonetised currency and Rs. 2.98 lakh of new notes at his house in Valasaravakkam. “Amalanathan had an undisclosed income of Rs. 1.75 crore,” said an official.

At Mr. Rajagopal's house, officials found Rs. 5.34 lakh of new currency. He reportedly admitted that Mr. Reddy had given him Rs. 15 crore a few days ago. “We have not concluded the searches at Mr. Rajagopal’s premises. It is still on,” the official said.

More arrests

The CBI, which arrested Mr. Reddy and his associate Srinivasulu on Wednesday, picked up three more people — Prem Kumar, Ramachandran and Rathnam — against whom it had registered a case of stashing away black money. The trio was produced in a Chennai court and remanded in judicial custody.

The CBI had registered a case against the five and others, including unknown bank officials and public servants, after the I-T Department earlier this month conducted searches and seized more than Rs. 130 crore cash and about Rs. 50 crore worth of gold from Mr. Reddy and his associates. The CBI case is that the seizure included Rs. 33.6 crore of new currency, which couldn’t have been procured without the connivance of bank officials.

The searches on Mr. Rao’s premises too were based on alleged evidence gathered during Mr. Reddy's interrogation.

Lodha being questioned

An Enforcement Directorate official said “We had information that Lodha was coming to Mumbai from Kolkata to take a connecting flight to Malaysia, and accordingly we intercepted him at the airport.”

Mr. Lodha was then taken to the city office of the ED for questioning in connection with his alleged involvement in converting demonetised currency for Delhi-based lawyer Rohit Tandon and Mr. Reddy.

“Lodha’s questioning threw up enough prima facie evidence for us to take further action, and he was then taken to Delhi, where he was placed under arrest on Thursday,” the officer added.

The ED has obtained seven days custody of the accused for the identification of others involved in the racket.

(With inputs from S. Vijay Kumar in Chennai, Devesh Pandey in New Delhi and Gautam S. Mengle in Mumbai)

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Printable version | Jan 21, 2021 5:17:16 PM |

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