Chennai : The Income Tax Department has seized Rs 170 crore unaccounted cash and 110 kg gold bars from the premises of a leading highways contractor in Tamil Nadu triggering demands for the resignation of Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami, who has been holding the Highways Department portfolio for over six years now.

Opposition leader and DMK working president M K Stalin alleged that the raided firm SPK & Co is linked to the Chief Minister’s kin, particularly his son’s father-in-law. Palaniswami has not responded to the charges yet but his senior cabinet colleague Fisheries Minister D Jayakumar has countered that the DMK too while in power had following similar practices of awarding tender for government projects and hence had no locus standi to paint the ruling AIADMK with a black brush.

Sleuths of the Directorate of Investigation (Income Tax), Chennai, had on Monday and Tuesday conducted extensive searches at 10 locations linked to SPK & Co in Chennai, Madurai and other places. The search and seizure operations, conducted based on “meticulous pre-search investigation and surveillance”, led to recover of Rs 24 lakh from the house of the Nagarajan Seyyadurai, the “main assessee”, and the remaining cash and gold from different places.

“He had parked over 140 crore cash and 110 kg gold bars with his employees working in sister companies. We also seized cash and gold from two BMW cars that were parked at the premises that were searched in Chennai,” an IT Department officer said. The sister concerns of SPK & Co were engaged in the hotel business and dealing in blue metal and toll ways.

“Seyyadurai had not only admitted the undisclosed assets, but also explained about the modus operandi of generation and acquisition of the unaccounted assets by inflating his sub-contract expenses and labour expenses with the help of accommodating sub-contractors and labour contractors,” the officer said. The main sub-contractors, a Chartered Accountant and a jeweller who helped in converting the cash into gold bars have also come under the scanner of the IT Department.

Following the development, DMK leader M K Stalin in a statement alleged that the Chief Minister had awarded tenders for highway projects to firms in which his relatives were partners. “These tenders must be cancelled and Palaniswami should resign immediately,” he said. “These IT raids have exposed how the Chief Minister’s ‘benami’ is a contractor and how his kin (in-laws) have colluded to run a regime of corruption in Tamil Nadu,” the DMK leader charged.

He wondered why the Chief Minister had not uttered a word on these IT Department searches in the last two days.

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