Centre plays IT card; D K Shivakumar refuses to answer queries

60 searches, 39 search warrants issued against Karnataka energy minister D.K. Shivakumar and his family.

Bengaluru: Congress leader and state energy minister D.K. Shivakumar, who took on the onerous task of keeping 44 Congress MLAs from Gujarat, away from the BJP's clutches, paid a huge price for his loyalty, when a team of IT officials, backed by armed Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) forces, early Wednesday raided his room at the plush Eagleton resort on the outskirts of the city where he had been openly staying since July 28.

Giving him just under an hour to get dressed, he was bundled into a car and driven straight to his home in the city, where officials from the Directorate of Income Tax (Investigation), Karnataka & Goa, carried in cash counting machines, while teams of IT officials fanned across the city. DGIT officials told this newspaper that they seized Rs two crore from the minister's home in Bengaluru. This was denied by the Congress party as was the claim that he had been shredding documents when the IT officials walked into his Eagleton resort hotel suite.

Setting off a political storm, the DGIT raided 60 other separate locations across the city, including the home of minister's brother, D.K.Suresh, MP, and his family home in Kanakpura where his mother was interrogated, as well as the offices of two major real estate and transport firms which allegedly have links with the minister.

Also raided was Apartment No. 5 Safdarjung Road in the capital New Delhi which reportedly belongs to the state energy minister. DGIT claimed they seized Rs eight crore in cash. Officials said the minister's father-in-law's home in Mysuru was also raided.

Mr Shivakumar had rushed back from Singapore to ensure that the Congress lawmakers from Gujarat, flown in on July 28 from Ahmedabad to Bengaluru, did not cross sides after six Congress MLAs joined the BJP, ahead of the Aug. 8 RS elections where senior Congress adviser Ahmed Patel was seeking re-election.

“The searches are the continuation of an investigation, which has been in progress for a considerable period of time. There is no conspiracy behind the raids. They were decided well in advance. To infer that the raids have been timed with certain MLAs, who have been brought to theCity from another state, is inaccurate. We have questioned the Minister, who was staying at the resort near Bengaluru, where some MLAs from another state are put up. The raids have nothing to do with the other MLAs. Only the minister's room was searched," said sources in the Directorate.

Officials close to the minister have told this newspaper that Mr Shivakumar has allowed IT officials to open all the cupboards and lockers in his home but was refusing to answer questions saying his lawyers would do the talking. It was unclear whether he was under arrest, with officials indicating that he could be placed under arrest by late Wednesday night.

The Income Tax department sleuths who are busy with the search operations on the residence and offices of the state Energy Minister are said to have unearthed documents pertaining to the alleged benami properties worth crores from the minister's residence in Sadashivanagar.

The sleuths from Enforcement Directorate (ED) are expected to join in the search operation following the recovery of the property documents. According to a source, the IT officials may refer the case to ED on Thursday. Though the exact amount of the benami properties is not yet known, the source said that it runs into several crores.

According to the source, the minister had stashed the property documents in lockers and there were many lockers at his residence which the officials are yet to open.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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