Cash-for-jobs scam designed and implemented by Senthil Balaji, claims ED in its charge sheet

The ED stated the recruitment process in the TN Transport Department, during Senthil Balaji's tenure as its minister, was turned into a 'corrupt chiefdom'..

ByVinodh Arulappan

Published Aug 30, 2023 | 9:47 PM Updated Aug 31, 2023 | 8:50 AM

Senthil Balaji has been denied bail thrice by the Principal Sessions Court. (Supplied)

“Senthil Balaji continuously and meticulously monitored and executed a job racket scam,” the Enforcement Directorate (ED) stated in the charge sheet filed on 12 August against the minister in the cash-for-jobs scam.

Following the prosecution complaint, filed under various sections of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) on 12 August before a special court in Chennai, the ED also served Balaji with a copy of the charge sheet on 28 August.

It has now emerged that the ED, in the charge sheet, stated that the entire recruitment process in the Tamil Nadu Transport Department during the tenure of Senthil Balaji as its minister was turned into a “corrupt chiefdom” and the cash-for-jobs scam was executed under his authority.

Balaji played a “pivotal and central” role, “exploiting” his official capacity as the transport minister for personal gains through corrupt and illegal means, the charge sheet claimed.

“The whole recruitment in the Transport Department during the tenure of the then-minister V Senthil Balaji has turned into a corrupt chiefdom, in which, as per the illegal directions of the chief (Senthil Balaji), the recruitment process was designed and implemented,” the ED alleged in the charge sheet.

Also read: Special court extends custody of Senthil Balaji till 15 September

‘Brother, PAs are conspirators’

It further stated that “He (Senthil Balaji) directly acquired illicit proceeds resulting from criminal activities linked to scheduled offences and collaborated with co-conspirators, including his brother, personal assistants, and officials from the transport department, to orchestrate a strategy.”

Balaji and his two personal assistants (PAs) — B Shanmugan and M Karthikeyan — denied their connections with each other during the recording of their statements.

However, the ED submitted that the investigative and forensic findings “decisively established” their links, to and Balaji’s involvement and role in, the scam.

“Therefore, it is crystal clear that Senthil Balaji continuously and meticulously monitored and executed a job racket scam along with his PAs — B Shanmugam and M Karthikeyan,” the ED alleged.

Also read: ‘Bank statements of Senthil Balaji, wife show huge cash deposits’

The evidence found

Submitting the evidence found during the investigation in the annexure of the charge sheet, the ED stated that the plan for the alleged scam involved channelling cash through the minister’s brother (Ashok Kumar) and accomplices, and this was supported by digital evidence found during the investigation.

A paper sheet seized in the case stated that all the candidates who applied and approached Balaji and his PAs for recruitment got jobs illegally by way of “illegal gratification” derived by the minister.

“A pen drive, which was seized, contained an Excel sheet that showed that a driver’s post in the transport department was ‘priced and sold’ for ₹1.75 lakh, a conductor’s post for ₹2.25 lakh, a junior tradesman’s post for ₹5 lakh, a junior assistant’s post for ₹7 lakh, and an assistant engineer’s post for ₹12 lakh,” the ED noted.

“These records outlined cash collections and job placements. Furthermore, the investigation unveiled tampering of candidate’s marks, favouring those who paid bribes to the accused,” the agency said.

Also read: ED denies arresting Ashok Kumar, brother of Senthil Balaji

The bank statement

The ED analysed the bank statements of Balaji and his wife S Megala, and found “huge cash deposits, especially during/after the period of the job racket scam in the MTC (Metropolitan Transport Corporation)”.

It said: “There have been cash deposits of ₹1.34 crore in the bank accounts of prime accused V Senthil Balaji and ₹29.55 lakh in his wife S Megala’s account. Further, there have been cash deposits of ₹13.13 crore in the bank account of Ashok Kumar (brother of V Senthil Balaji) and ₹53.89 lakh in his wife A Nirmala’s bank account.”

The ED added in the charge sheet: “Further, there have been cash deposits of ₹2.19 crore in the bank accounts of B Shanmugam (PA to V Senthil Balaji).”

It then went on to note: “These cash deposits are huge compared to their disclosed incomes. Therefore, these huge cash deposits are nothing but part of the proceeds of crime, which were brought into the financial system for the purpose of laundering.”

The ED also stated that the “proceeds of crime” were laundered by depositing money in the bank accounts of Balaji’s family members and associates for use or projection as untainted money.

Thereby, said the agency in the charge sheet, he was knowingly and actually involved in the process or activity connected with the proceeds of crime and eventually, committed the offence of money laundering.

Also read: ED raids on properties owned by Senthil Balaji’s associates

The money-laundering case

The ED filed a case of money laundering in July 2021 to probe these allegations based on three FIRs lodged in 2018 and complaints from some of those who failed to get the promised jobs.

Following this, Balaji was arrested by the ED on 14 June in connection with the cash-for-jobs scam alleged to have taken place when he was the Transport Minister in the previous AIADMK regime in the southern state from 2011 to 2016.

Lodged in Puzhal Central Jail in Chennai, Balaji is now a minister without portfolio in the MK Stalin-led Tamil Nadu Cabinet, and his judicial custody has been extended till 15 September.