By Raju Vernekar
Mumbai, Dec 23:
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Thursday attached 45 acre land worth Rs 55 crore located in Coimbatore (Tamil Nadu), held in the name of a Benami company of former Union Minister Andimuthu Raja (A. Raja) (59).
DMK leader Raja who at present represents the Nilgiris Lok Sabha seat in Tamil Nadu, was the Union Environment and Forests Minister during the Congress-led UPA Government in 2004-2007.
As per the statement issued by the ED on Thursday, during the investigation under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002, Raja, during his tenure as the union minister had granted Environmental Clearances to a real-estate company, based out of Gurugram (one of the largest real estate companies in the country, also listed on BSE) during his tenure.
While ED mentioned it as one of the largest real estate companies in the country, sources said that the transactions pertained to DLF.
The ED found that the said real-estate company gave money in the garb of land commission to the company floated by Raja in 2007 in the name of his family members and his close family friend. The commission was given as quid pro quo for the Environmental Clearances granted by Raja in his capacity as the minister in the same year. Thus the company was set up with the sole objective of using it as a vehicle to park the proceeds of crime.
The said company was never engaged in any business activity and the entire money received was used for acquiring land in Coimbatore District. The 45 acres of land was purchased using the proceeds of crime. As such the ED provisionally attached this land.
The Benami properties are those in which the real beneficiary is not the one in whose name the property has been purchased.
Raja’s assets are also being investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). In October this year, the CBI had charge sheeted him for allegedly amassing disproportionate assets to the tune of Rs 5.53 crore during his tenure as Union minister, in a case registered on August 18, 2015.
The above case was registered against Raja and 16 others, including his family members and associates. They included Raja’s nephew Parmesh, wife Parameswari (since deceased), his associate C Krishnamurthy (who is the director of Kovai Shelters Pvt Limited), wife of Sadiq Basha ( an alleged associate of Raja who committed suicide), and Reha Banu, a director in Greenhouse Promoters which was earlier owned by Basha among others. The CBI accused them of accumulating disproportionate assets to the tune of Rs 27.92 crore.
In its charge filed before the Special Court in Chennai, CBI had alleged that Krishnamurthy had set up the “Kovai Shelters Pvt Ltd”, in January 2007 and it received Rs 4.56 crore very next month (February) as commission for the purchase of land in Kanchipuram from DLF.
Raja was earlier in the cross hairs of the ED when his role was investigated and a charge sheet was filed against him by the agency in connection with its money laundering probe in the 2G spectrum allocation case.