At a time when the Mannargudi family is under the IT scanner, another member of the family is in fresh trouble. The Madras High Court on Friday convicted V.K. Sasikala's husband M. Natarajan in the Lexus car import case. The court has confirmed two year jail term for Natarajan and Sasikala’s nephew V.N. Bhaskaran in the case.
Though Natarajan can file an appeal in the Supreme Court, legal experts are of the opinion that Natarajan might have to go to jail, as the high court did not grant leave to appeal. Normally in a case where the sentence is less than two years, the accused can seek bail and then go for an appeal. For Natarajan who recently underwent a dual transplant surgery, undergoing imprisonment may not be possible and sources say he might seek bail on health grounds. Bhaskaran, sources say, will seek bail before going for an appeal.
In 2010, Natarajan was convicted by an Economic Offences Court and sentenced to two years imprisonment in the case. Natarajan, Bhaskaran and three others imported a Toyota Lexus car in 1994, declaring it as a used 1993 model vehicle. Natarajan had imported the car from UK as a wedding gift to Bhaskaran. A case was registered by the CBI in the late 90s against Natarajan, Bhaskaran, London-based businessman Balakrishnan who had sent the car and bank officials Yogesh and Sujaritha Sundararajan for incurring loss to the exchequer to the tune of Rs.1.62 crore. The offence involved manipulating the invoice to evade import duties and changing the vehicle’s manufacturing date to July 1993. Balakrishnan absconded and he was delinked from the case.
The case proceeded against the remaining four who approached the Madras High Court on an appeal which stayed the sentence. However the Enforcement Directorate, apart from the CBI, also filed a separate case against all the four under FERA (Foreign Exchange Regulation Act) which was also heard by the Economic Offences Court. It was against this procedure initiated by the Enforcement Directorate that Natarajan filed a discharge petition in the special court for Economic offences in Chennai. The discharge petition in January this year, was dismissed by the special court, following which the case took a speedy course after seven years.
The court’s order convicting Natarajan has come at a time when the family is facing a low after the continuous IT raids and non-stop probes.