After Balaji, ED raids properties of TN Higher Education Minister Ponmudy; ‘usual drama,’ says Stalin

Ponmudy is the second minister in the Stalin Cabinet to come under ED probe; searches related to a 2012 illegal mining case.

ByVinodh Arulappan

Published Jul 17, 2023 | 2:30 PM Updated Jul 17, 2023 | 2:30 PM

The ED sleuths were accompanied by CRPF personnel. (Supplied)

More than a month after the arrest of Tamil Nadu Minister V Senthil Balaji in a money laundering case, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Monday, 17 July, raided over seven places linked to Higher Education Minister K Ponmudy, in a 2012 illegal mining case.

A couple of weeks ago, the ED registered an Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR) against the minister, his son and Lok Sabha member Gowtham Sigamani, and others. The report was registered based on a case filed by the state Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption (DVAC).

On Monday, a team of more than 30 ED officials accompanied by Central Armed Reserve Police personnel reached Ponmudy’s residences in Chennai and Villupuram.

Searches were also conducted at other places, including the Surya Engineering College owned by the minister under the Surya Educational Trust, at Vikravandi.

Related: Third judge rules in favour of ED, says Minister Balaji’s arrest legal

DMK cadres at raid venues

In Villupuram, when the ED officials went to Ponmudy’s residence at Shanmugapuram Colony, they found the house locked. The caretaker, Selvam, handed over the key to ED officials after he was warned of legal consequences.

The ED officials also searched Sigamani’s Kayal Ponni, a firm on Ranganathan Street.

In Chennai, a team of five officials searched Ponmudy’s residence at Saidapet. The officials reportedly seized a few documents from the minister’s car. Two technical experts from the Central Forensic Department were called in to assist the officials.

The state police erected barricades in front of the house, preventing the DMK cadres and others from reaching the house.

The ED sleuths were conducting raids at four more properties related to the minister in Chennai at the time of filing this report.

Additional forces were deployed at the Secretariat, anticipating that the ED officials would search the minister’s office.

Related: Relief for Ponmudy as court acquits him in 1998 land-grab case

Bid to divert attention: Stalin

Meanwhile, Chief Minister MK Stalin accused the Union government of trying to distract people from learning the news of the Opposition parties’ second meeting in Bengaluru.

Speaking to reporters at Chennai airport before leaving for Bengaluru, Stalin termed the case against Ponmudy as “false”, and charged against him nearly 13 years ago during the late J Jayalalithaa-led AIADMK regime.

“Tamil Nadu, Governor RN Ravi is already conducting a poll campaign for us and now, the ED has joined (the poll scene) and I feel the election work for us will be easy,” he mocked.

He further said that the DMK remains unperturbed over what he termed a “usual, ordinary and a drama” enacted to divert the attention from the meeting of 24 anti-BJP Opposition parties.

He said Ponmudy would face the raids legally.

The DMK chief also stated that the AIADMKm in power continuously for a decade, did not make any move in the case. The people would respond to the raids in the Lok Sabha elections, he added.

Also read: I-T Department raids aides of Senthil Balaji for the 3rd time

The case

On 4 October, 2007, the then district collector of Villupuram granted a licence to Sigamani for quarrying red sand for three years. The collector also granted licences to Jayachandran, and Raja Mahendran, aides of Minister Ponmudy, for quarrying red sand.

It has been alleged that they, in collusion with officials, mined more red soil without paying the relevant fee and caused a loss of revenue to the tune of ₹28.37 crore to the state.

In 2012, the DVAC filed a case under sections 406, 420, and 379 r/w 120(b) of IPC and sections 13(2) r/w 13(1)(d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, and sections 4(1), 4(1)(A) r/w 21 of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957 r/w Rule 36(A) of the Tamil Nadu Minor Minerals Concession Rules, 1959 against seven people, including Ponmudy and Sigamani.

Subsequently, the DVAC arrested Ponmudy during the AIADMK rule.

Further, the vigilance filed a charge sheet against Ponmudy and others in a special court trying criminal cases involving lawmakers.

Ponmudy and Sigamani approached the Madras High Court to quash the case. The court dismissed their petitions stating that there was enough evidence against the accused.