After 13 hours of searches, Tamil Nadu Higher Education Minister K. Ponmudy and son Kallakuruchi MP Gautham Sigamani were taken to the Enforcement Directorate's office in Chennai for further interrogation.
According to highly placed sources, a team of seven officers from the Enforcement Decorate conducted searches at Ponmudy’s residence in Chennai, Villupuram and at least a dozen properties linked to the minister, his son and his daughter.
Ponmudy was taken in his own official car to the ED office for interrogation. Sources say around 120 questions were put to Ponmudy during the searches and has been taken for further interrogation. The father-son duo has been asked to give statements before the officials in the ED office at Sastri Bhavan in Chennai, sources said. According to sources, several incriminating documents and foreign currency were seized during the searches. Sources in the know of the developments say that Ponmudy is likely to be arrested and taken into custody for further investigation.
“This is politically motivated. The searches were conducted and Ponmudy has been taken for interrogation only because our leader has been working for opposition unity. This is nothing but political vendetta,” says R.S. Bharathi, Rajya Sabha MP and DMK’s organising secretary.
The decade-old case has come to haunt Ponmudy at a time when the DMK has been spearheading an anti-BJP front. The case was registered in 2012, against Ponmudy, his son Gautham Sigamani and other relatives for causing a loss of Rs 28.36 crore to the state exchequer through excessive mining of red sand without paying a seigniorage fee. The case was registered for illegally licensing five red sand quarries to his son Sigamani, during his stint as minister for mines between 2006 and 2011.
Earlier in 2020, the ED had conducted searches in the properties linked to Sigamani and had attached his properties worth Rs.8.6 crores, allegedly linked to illegal acquisition and non-repatriation of foreign exchange earnings from overseas. Sigamani had allegedly invested Rs 7.5 lakhs in UAE, Rs 41 lakhs in a company in Indonesia.
Recently, a special court in Chennai had dismissed a petition filed by Gautham seeking to stay the proceedings. The proceedings are pending before the special court for cases against MP/MLAs and the principal district sessions court, Villupuram. The court also refused to quash the case as sought by Sigamani.
Off late, Ponmudy has been the most vociferous minister opposing Governor R.N. Ravi. Be it Governor Ravi’s comments on the New Education policy (NEP) or his actions in the university as chancellor were criticised by Ponmudy every now and then.
Ponmudy is the second high-profile leader of the DMK to have come under ED radar in the past one month. Earlier, Minister V. Senthil Balaji was arrested by the ED for a cash-for-job scam. Senthil Balaji who underwent bypass surgery at a private hospital in Chennai, was moved to the Puzhal prison on Monday. It has been a month since Senthil Balaji has been arrested.