Chennai: A tea vendor at Chennai airport, arrested along with nine customs officials by the CBI in 2009, landed in a money laundering net after a Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) court recently froze his assets in connection with alleged corrupt activities. His assets include large cash deposits and 2.5 kg of gold jewellery.
The CBI had then arrested customs superintendents, K. Baskar, R. Arivudai Nambi, A. Nageswari, M. Palaniappan, preventive officers Jagmohan Meena, V. Asaithambi, T. Manjula, B. F. Benjamin, senior tax assistant K. Kannan along with tea vendor G. Kumar and another tout, S. Rajkumar. All the customs officials were also booked under PMLA.
Tea vendor Kumar, who worked as an agent of the accused customs officials, admitted that he had collected the money from the clients on behalf of the officials.
Kumar used to shift the bribe money to the houses of the officials and also to his residence by the hour. The CBI also searched Kumar's premises and seized Rs 2.32 lakh in cash and over 180 pieces of various gold ornaments. More than Rs 3 lakh in cash was also found in his three bank accounts in the city.
The CBI later handed over the case, including that of Kumar's, who is a school dropout, to the enforcement directorate for probing under the PMLA.
It was found that Kumar, who used to work in tea shops since 1987, allegedly connived with airport and customs officials and was accumulating the ill-gotten wealth and gold ornaments since the year 2000 after the officers promised to share the illegally earned money with him.
He had a duty pass to enter the high-security area and, over a period of time, had become a good friend of the officials posted there.
Kumar, who also owns a house, found that it was better to purchase gold jewellery with the money as it was risky to keep it in the form of cash.
He also started filing income tax returns, posing as the proprietor of a firm in order to show the bribe money as ‘legitimately earned’ and to dodge the investigators.
The ED, after finishing its probe, attached these movable assets in September last year....