Chennai: Enforcement Directorate (ED) officials on Monday conducted simultaneous searches in about 30 locations across Tamil Nadu over alleged illegal sale of sand mined from riverbeds by contractors, the police said.
The searches have been carried out in the districts of Trichy, Namakkal, Vellore and Karur. The offices and residences of major sand mining contractors including S Ramachandran and ‘Dindigul’ Rathinam who hold sand mining and retail contracts in the state were raided by ED officials, police said.
The ED is yet to issue a statement on the raids conducted and its officials have not shared any information about the case. Besides this, the probe agency is also searching ten premises linked to one associate (name) of arrested minister V Senthil Balaji, who has been arrested on XXX (when) by the ED in a corruption case (related to) . He is presently in jail.
Ministers in the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam-led Tamil Nadu government have been under ED’s radar in the recent months. The agency arrested Balaji on June 14 on charges of money laundering in a case dating back to 2014. Later, the agency questioned higher education minister K Ponmudi and his son Gautham Sigamani, a parliamentarian, in July.
The ED had then said that its probe into Ponmudi is related to an “alleged issuance of red sand mining licences at five locations illegally by the him, who was the minister for mines” between 2007 and 2011.
Ponmudi had issued illegal licences for red sand mining to his son, relatives and some benami holders, and that a huge amount of hawala funds generated from this mining business was used to purchase companies abroad, the agency said.
The latest round of ED raids on sand mining is being seen as targeted against senior DMK leader Durai Murugan, who holds water and mining portfolios in the state, people familiar with the matter said.
ED officials fanned out at mining sites and sale depots following allegations that a huge quantity of sand mined from riverbeds were being sold at sand depots managed by the Tamil Nadu water resources department.
“Sand is sold only online through the water resources department in the state, so raids are to probe whether offline sales have happened,” an official said, requesting anonymity.
Ramachandran, Rathinam and another sand mining contractor Karikalan are closely associated with Durai Murugan, the officer added.
Later in the day, the agency also searched the office of the chief engineer of the Public Works Department, which manages sale of sand mining in the state.
Officials said the searches are likely to continue in the coming days. HT reached out to DMK leaders for a comment , but did not receive one.