The Income Tax Department has seized ₹55 crore in cash since the model code of conduct came into effect in Tamil Nadu on February 27.
The department has created a separate wing, comprising more than 250 people, within the investigation wing to conduct searches and seize cash that could be used to influence the election, an official told The Federal.
“We have also involved officials from other wings of the department. In total 650 officials are involved in searches,” he said, adding the department expects to conduct more searches in the run-up to the election.
The department has set up a control room in the investigation wing, the official said. “On average we get 15 to 20 calls every day saying cash is being stored. Around 20 per cent of the calls lead to concrete results. We also get information through our toll-free and WhatsApp numbers.”
The department is keeping track of large cash withdrawals from banks. “We get bank alerts in case of large withdrawals. Any withdrawal above ₹1 lakh is being watched. We check the person who has withdrawn the amount. Once the account owner is identified, we check their recent withdrawal history,” the official said.
The department is yet to connect the seized cash with distribution of money to voters. “A primary investigation has been conducted based on the searches and cash seized. It is too early to make that connection,” said the official.
Since the model code came into effect, the department has been sending reports to the chief electoral officer on a daily basis. “The report contains details of cash found and the number of searches done, etc,” the official said.
In 2016, based on the department’s reports, the Election Commission cancelled elections in Thanjavur and Aravakurichi constituencies. Similarly, the by-election in 2017 for the RK Nagar constituency was also cancelled based on the I-T report.
On Wednesday I-T officials raided properties connected to senior DMK leader EV Velu, around the time his party leader, MK Stalin, was campaigning for him.
An official said the searches were based on “credible inputs of cash movement” during the campaign.
Searches took place at more than 10 locations, including Velu’s home in Tiruvannamalai, his constituency, from where the 70-year-old is seeking re-election.