Chennai: The Enforcement Directorate on Monday conducted searches at the premises of DMK leader and Tamil Nadu Higher Education Minister K Ponmudy and his MP son Gautham Sigamani in a money laundering case linked to alleged illegal sand mining, official sources said.
The agency, according to the sources, recovered around ₹70 lakh cash and some pounds from the premises of the minister. The statement of the father-son duo may also be recorded during the searches.
The 72-year-old minister is the second in the cabinet of Chief Minister M K Stalin to come under the scanner of the federal probe agency after Transport Minister Senthil Balaji. Balaji was raided and arrested by the ED in June as part of an alleged cash-for-jobs linked money laundering case investigation.
The raids are being undertaken at the premises of the two in state capital Chennai and in Ponmudy's stronghold of Villupuram, they said. The ruling DMK dubbed the action "political vendetta". The ED teams were escorted by armed personnel of the CRPF and they made some seizures of documents.
The minister is an MLA from the Tirukkoyilur Assembly seat in Villupuram district while his 49-year old son Sigamani is a Member of Parliament representing the Kallakurichi seat.
Reacting to the raids, DMK president Stalin said the ED has joined the 'election campaign'.
The case against Ponmudy was a "false case" that was foisted on him nearly 13 years ago during the late J Jayalalithaa-led AIADMK regime, Stalin told reporters here before leaving for Bengaluru to take part in the Congress-led Opposition meet.
"As regards Tamil Nadu, Governor R N Ravi is already conducting a poll campaign for us and now, the ED has joined (the poll scene) and I feel the election work for us will be easy," Stalin said.
"The DMK is not worried a wee bit," he said of the ED searches. Such an action by the ED was "usual, ordinary and a drama" enacted to divert attention.
The money laundering case
The money laundering case is linked to alleged irregularities when Ponmudy was the state mining minister (between 2007 and 2011) and there were allegations of violation of quarry licence conditions leading to loss of more than ₹28 crore to the exchequer.
The state police had filed a complaint to probe these charges of alleged corruption against the minister and those linked to him and the Madras High Court in June refused to stay the trial in this case after Sigamani approached it with a petition for relief.
The minister is accused of obtaining mining/quarry licences for his son and other family members and the licencees are alleged to have quarried red sand beyond the permissible limit.
The high court said there were grounds to presume that the petitioner has committed the offence and hence the trial cannot be stopped.
DMK spokesperson A Saravanan told PTI that the ED raids were a "political vendetta and aimed at testing the DMK's resolve," There has been no action from Central authorities against the AIADMK leaders on graft cases such as the one involving the Gutka scandal, he alleged.
Stalin and the DMK had earlier slammed the ED action against Balaji as "intimidation politics" by the Centre.
(With inputs from PTI)