Enforcement Directorate Launches Raids in Alleged Sand Mining Scam Across Tamil Nadu.
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has initiated searches at more than 25 locations across Tamil Nadu, suspecting an extensive sand mining Scam involving potential money laundering and tax evasion. The focus of the investigation centers on whether the tax corresponding to the sale of sand extracted from riverbeds was accurately recorded in government accounts through the electronic bills issued to numerous lorry owners and operators.
On Tuesday, multiple teams from the ED simultaneously conducted searches at various sites in Tamil Nadu. These locations encompassed sand mines, sales depots, and other establishments allegedly implicated in the illicit sand mining operation, which is believed to involve illicit financial activities and tax irregularities. Among the primary targets of the raids are chartered accountant S Ramachandran and sand mining contractor Rathinam. Notably, the searches were predominantly concentrated in Dindigul, Tamil Nadu, where Rathinam is predominantly based.
According to available information, the Tamil Nadu police were not pre-informed about the raids. Instead, the ED teams collaborated with the Central Armed Police Force to facilitate their operations. A police official informed The Hindu, “There is information that searches are going on in more than 25 locations in Vellore, Tiruchi, Karur, Pudukottai etc at sand sales depots and the offices/residences of sand mining contractors.”
The searches extend to both the offices and residences of prominent sand mining contractors. Notably, the mining portfolio within the Tamil Nadu government is under the purview of Durai Murugan, who also holds the position of General Secretary within the ruling DMK party. Oversight of sand mining operations from riverbeds, as well as their subsequent sale at designated depots or sales points, falls under the jurisdiction of the Tamil Nadu Water Resources Department.
Reports indicate that sand transactions occur through a website operated by the Water Resources Department, with electronic receipts issued at the sales depots. Allegedly, a significant portion of sand transactions transpire offline, but these transactions are not consistently recorded in the official records. The investigative agency is now delving into whether the tax revenues were accurately accounted for in government coffers in relation to the electronic receipts distributed to numerous vehicle owners and operators.
Over the past several months, Enforcement Directorate (ED) officials have been actively gathering data on sand excavators operating along riverbeds in various districts including Tiruvallur, Kancheepuram, Vellore, Pudukottai, Tiruchi, Karur, among others. Additionally, investigators have been compiling information on sand lorries that have entered approximately 15 locations in these districts for the purpose of purchasing and transporting sand.
In their pursuit of evidence, ED teams are thoroughly reviewing footage from Closed Circuit Television Cameras (CCTVs) installed at sand sale depots. They are also seeking access to video recordings at toll plazas and other key points along the roads leading to these depots. Furthermore, the devices used to store data related to sand sales will be subjected to verification.
The investigation will also encompass determining the estimated volume of sand sold and the financial proceeds garnered through both online and offline transactions. It will also address how much of this information has been properly recorded, forming a crucial aspect of the inquiry into the alleged money laundering case.
In Pudukottai district, ED officials simultaneously conducted checks at the office and residence of sand mining contractor S. Ramachandran. The ED teams, organized into groups, commenced their examinations at Mr. Ramachandran’s office located in Pudukottai town and at his residence near Vallathirakottai in the morning. Para-military personnel provided security coverage during these checks, according to police sources.
Another team from the ED, escorted by para-military personnel, carried out inspections at the Kondayampettai sand storage point in Tiruchi city.
The searches are also underway at the premises of sand mining contractor Rathinam, as well as individuals associated with him, as confirmed by official sources.
In summary, the Enforcement Directorate has embarked on a widespread operation, conducting searches at over 25 locations in Tamil Nadu, as part of an investigation into an alleged sand mining scam. This operation is rooted in suspicions of money laundering and tax evasion in the sale of sand extracted from riverbeds.
The ED is scrutinizing the accuracy of tax reporting in government accounts, specifically examining the electronic bills issued to lorry owners and operators. The searches have targeted key figures including chartered accountant S Ramachandran and sand mining contractor Rathinam, with a primary focus on locations in Dindigul, Tamil Nadu. The raids were carried out with the assistance of the Central Armed Police Force, and Tamil Nadu police were not pre-informed about the operation. The investigation also extends to the residences and offices of major players in the sand mining industry, raising questions about the proper accounting of tax revenues derived from sand sales.