TN: ED grills Ponmudy for second time, says it seized incriminating documents and cash
Tamil Nadu Higher Education Minister K Ponmudy and his son appeared before the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in Chennai on Tuesday (July 18) for the second day of inquiry into a money-laundering case linked to alleged illegal sand mining.
The central agency searched the premises of the DMK leader and his MP son Gautham Sigamani for nearly 10 hours on Monday and conducted an inquiry at its office late in the night. After almost an overnight questioning, the father and son were allowed to go home around 3.30 am on Tuesday but were summoned to appear again later in the day.
#WATCH | Tamil Nadu Higher Education Minister Ponmudy arrives at the office of the Enforcement Directorate in Chennai's Nungambakkam, after he was summoned to reappear for questioning by the agency pic.twitter.com/yZekeP8mVt
— ANI (@ANI) July 18, 2023
The ED said in a statement it had seized incriminating documents and cash during the searches conducted under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) at seven locations linked to Ponmudy and Sigamani.
“The searches yielded various incriminating documents, cash amounting to Rs 81.7 lakh, foreign currency (British pounds) equivalent to approx Rs 13 lakh, and fixed deposits worth Rs 41.9 crore were frozen,” the ED noted.
Ponmudy is alleged to have violated the Tamil Nadu Minor Mineral Concessions Act in 2006-11, when he was the state Mines and Minerals Minister. There is alleged irregularity is his allocation of a red sand quarry at Poothurai under the Vanur block.
Stalin seeks details of probe
DMK president and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin spoke to his Cabinet colleague over the phone and assured him of the ruling party’s total support in countering the BJPs ‘political vendetta”. Stalin sought details of the ED probe, an official release said. He asked Ponmudy to face it bravely and legally.
“The chief minister told Ponmudy that the party (DMK) will support (him) morally, politically, and legally to oppose and break the political vendetta of the Union BJP government,” it added. Stalin was in Bengaluru to attend the meeting of Opposition parties on Tuesday.
Senior DMK leader TKS Elangovan said the minister was “doing well” and was “not afraid, as he has got nothing to conceal”. Elangovan accused the BJP-led Centre of using the ED to “harass” the DMK.
“Why overnight ordeal for statement?”
Earlier, another party spokesperson and advocate A Saravanan claimed that the minister cooperated with the central agency and wondered why a 72-year-old man had to be put through an overnight ordeal merely for a statement.
“Nothing would have happened if the ED officials had asked him to appear in the morning to obtain the statement,” he said.
The raids were held at the premises of Ponmudy and his son in Chennai and in the minister’s stronghold of Villupuram. The ED teams were escorted by armed personnel of the CRPF, and they reportedly seized some documents.
The minister is an MLA from the Tirukkoyilur Assembly seat in Villupuram district, while the 49-year-old Sigamani is an MP representing the Kallakurichi seat.
“No incriminating documents”
No unaccounted-for cash or incriminating documents were seized from the minister, as claimed, Saravanan told reporters and sought to know if the central agency had issued any press statement regarding the seizure.
“What’s the logic in inquiring into a case 13 years after it was registered. This is nothing but a political vendetta by the BJP government because Ponmudy took on Governor RN Ravi on the new education policy, appointment of vice-chancellors and other key issues,” he added.
Tamil Nadu BJP vice-president Narayanan Tirupathy, however, claimed that the minister was not arrested, as his colleague V Senthil Balaji was, because Ponmudy cooperated.
(With agency inputs)