Chennai: After overnight questioning of Tamil Nadu Higher Education Minister K Ponmudy and his MP son Gautam Sigamani in an alleged money laundering case linked to illegal mining, the Directorate of Enforcement (ED) on Tuesday evening resumed its interrogation with them at its office in Shastri Bhavan, Chennai. The agency also froze an amount of ₹41.9 crore, identified as direct proceeds of crime, under Section 17(1A) of PMLA as it was held in the form of a Fixed Deposit.
Chief Minister M K Stalin, who had dubbed the ED action as political vendetta, assured Ponmudy of all support. Senior DMK leaders and ministers also met Ponmudy as an expression of solidarity.
ED conducts stringent search operations
The ED on Monday had conducted search operations at seven locations connected to Ponmudy and Sigamani under PMLA, 2002.
The case involves the alleged issuance of red sand mining licenses at five locations illegally by Ponmudy, who was the Minister of Mines at that time, to his son, relatives, and benami holders.
The agency alleges the proceeds obtained from illegal mining were deposited in benami accounts and were layered through multiple transactions and accounts. Eventually, two overseas entities, namely PT Excel Mengindo in Indonesia and M/s Universal Business Ventures FZE in the UAE, were acquired. The Indonesian company, was shown to have been purchased for a nominal amount of ₹41.57 lakh, was later sold for over ₹100 Crore in 2022. It is suspected that huge amounts of cash was transferred through hawala and infused in purchase of these overseas entities, the ED said.
During the search operation, unaccounted cash amounting to ₹81.7 lakh was seized, along with unexplained foreign currency primarily in British pounds equivalent to approximately ₹13 lakhs from the residence of Ponmudy.
According to agency, to mislead the probe, a claim that the cash belonged to a family-owned hospital was made, and an attempt to falsify accounting records to introduce cash was detected by ED and prevented. A corroborating statement attesting the above facts was obtained from one "concerned person." Thus, there is no plausible explanation for this unexplained cash seized from the residence of Ponmudy, it added.
ED probe unveils a trail of illegal proceeds
ED investigation has identified a trail of illegal proceeds derived from these illicit activities, being used to acquire properties, companies, and channelling into other investments. Various incriminating documents have been found, seized and are currently under analysis.