Chennai/Vellore: Amid high drama punctuated by protests from local DMK men, a static surveillance squad of the Election Commission along with income tax sleuths ‘raided’ the residence and some other premises of DMK senior Durai Murugan in Vellore district and ‘seized’ Rs 10 lakh as ‘unaccounted’ cash, besides some printouts with ward numbers scribbled on them.
The raids began late Friday night and went on for a good part of Saturday.
While Chief Electoral Officer Satyabrata Sahoo said the searches were done by the commission's squad following police information (of money movement), the action triggered tough condemnation from the DMK and allies accusing the BJP and AIADMK leaderships of trying to intimidate and bully the Opposition while the high-stakes elections are barely a fortnight away.
Tax officials had to beat a hasty retreat when DMK legal cell functionaries blocked the entry to Durai Murugan's house and said the raid team cannot enter because it did not possess search warrant. The raids began later with the warrants quickly prepared. Durai Murugan returned from his campaign tour to be present.
He dismissed the documents ‘seized’-printouts of ward numbers with ward numbers written on them-as “just junk” and told reporters the raid team found nothing of significance.
“We did not conceal anything”, said the DMK senior, adding that all his family members were income tax assessees.
Tax sleuths, however, said further questioning was on. They said about Rs 19 lakh cash was found in the search and Rs 10 lakh was taken as 'determined as excess' after allowing the amount declared in the election affidavit of Durai Murugan's son D. M. Kathir Anand contesting for the Vellore Lok Sabha seat in the coming Lok Sabha polls.
Confirming that Rs 10 lakh was seized, Durai Murugan said the amount was quite small and it was not uncommon for families to hold that kind of money at home for emergencies. Terming the raids as "conspiracy" by some political leaders who could not face the DMK in the electoral arena, he said, "They (tax officials) have gone with the understanding that we have nothing (to hide). The DMK treasurer also questioned the timing of the raid. "This is not the time to hold searches, be it by the I-T or any other officers, when we are in the midst of full-fledged election campaign," he said.
I.T department sources said searches were also carried out in the campus of a college run by Durai Murugan's family, including the teaching and hostel blocks, besides the administrative building. A farmhouse of a close associate was also searched, the sources said. An officer said his sleuths along with the EC squad carried out the searches to detect possible tax evasion vis-a-vis use of unaccounted money for electioneering.
Sources said the I-T investigation wing was requested by Vellore district election authorities to accompany them carry out the searches. When the teams arrived at Durai Murugan's residence, they faced opposition from the DMK legal wing. The officials told the protesters they had an "official memorandum" issued by top authorities but the DMK men insisted on seeing a 'search warrant' as only that provided them the authority to enter the premises of their leader.
Besides, the 'memorandum' related to the money movement in Arakkonam parliamentary constituency. After this, the 'right' warrant was quickly procured and the 'searches' started....