Wednesday, Nov 29, 2023
×
Outlook.com
×

Senthil Balaji Misused Office To Engineer Cash-For-Jobs 'Scam': ED

Senthil Balaji Misused Office To Engineer Cash-For-Jobs 'Scam': ED

Senthil Balaji, 47, was arrested under the criminal sections of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) by the agency here on Wednesday

Tamil Nadu Electricity Minister V Senthil Balaji
Tamil Nadu Electricity Minister V Senthil Balaji Twitter

Tamil Nadu minister Senthil Balaji allegedly "misused" his office for illegal gratification and "engineered" a job racket scam in the state transport undertakings during 2014-15 with purported kickbacks paid by candidates through his associates, the ED informed a local court on Wednesday hours after arresting the DMK leader.

Calling him the "prime suspect" in the cash-for-jobs case, the federal probe agency also stated in its custody papers that alleged unaccounted cash deposits worth about Rs 1.60 crore were made in the bank accounts of Balaji and his wife.

Balaji, 47, was arrested under the criminal sections of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) by the agency here on Wednesday after it launched searches the previous day at his premises and those linked to him in Chennai and some other locations. Chief Minister M K Stalin slammed the ED raids against Balaji as "intimidation politics" by the Centre.

Balaji was admitted to a city government hospital after he complained of uneasiness. He underwent a coronary angiogram and was advised to undergo bypass surgery at the "earliest".

He was remanded in judicial custody till June 28 by a Sessions Court judge during a hearing held at the hospital.

The ED in its submission claimed Balaji, a public official, "misused his office for illegal gratification and engineered a job racket scam in MTC/TNSTCs."

The case against Balaji and his aides pertains to his tenure as the state transport minister in the AIADMK government during 2011-15.

The irregularities occurred in state-run Metropolitan Transport Corporation (MTC) and Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation (TNSTC).

It is alleged that he, along with his brother R V Ashok Kumar, PA B Shanmugam and a person identified as M Karthikeyan, "conspired" with the managing directors of all state transport undertakings (STU) and other officers of transport corporations to obtain "illegal gratification" from candidates to recruit them as drivers, conductors, junior assistants, junior engineer and assistant engineer in the transport corporation (during 2014-15).

It is alleged that the "entire appointment process was made in a fraudulent and dishonest manner and only in accordance with the lists provided by Shanmugam, R V Ashok Kumar, M Karthikeyan, as per the directions of Balaji", the ED alleged in its application seeking Balaji's custody from the court.

These four are alleged to have collected money from the candidates "on behalf of Balaji" for issuing appointment orders. It is alleged that the candidates who paid the money "neither got appointment orders nor their money back".

The ED filed a case of money laundering in September 2021 to probe these allegations and its complaint is based on three Tamil Nadu Police FIRs filed during 2018 and some later years by some of those who failed to get the promised jobs.

The fresh action came after the Supreme Court issued an order on May 16 allowing an investigation into this case by the police as well as the ED.

The ED said that it had summoned Balaji, R V Ashok Kumar and B Shanmugam multiple times in the past but they did not appear and sought adjournments, showing "evasive" behaviour.

The agency informed the court that it has recorded the statement of various officials allegedly involved in this 'scam' and they have told that many rules were "violated" while recruiting candidates.

The violations included entering interview marks in pencil, not following the principle of merit and reservation, issuance of appointment letters by unauthorised officers, increasing vacancies without approval and payment of money for jobs through associates to PAs of the minister.

Some of the candidates told the ED that the money was given to Shanmugam, either "directly or through some mediators".

The ED said after raiding the premises of Balaji and his associates on Tuesday, it issued him a summons to appear before it for questioning but he allegedly "refused to sign and receive" them.

The ED claimed Balaji "shouted and yelled" at the agency officials present at his house and the agency then attempted to record his statement there in the presence of two witnesses.

It charged the minister of being "completely non-cooperative" during the proceedings and hence he was arrested around 1:30 am. It said the arrest was executed in the presence of two independent witnesses as the minister "refused" to sign the arrest memo.

If not arrested, Balaji could have "tampered and destroyed" the evidence, the agency.

"Bank statement analysis of key accused revealed that there have been cash deposits of Rs 1.34 crore in the bank accounts of prime suspect V Senthil Balaji and Rs 29.55 lakh in his wife S Meghala's account. These cash deposits are huge compared to their incomes disclosed in ITRs (income tax returns)," the ED alleged.

It informed the court that "the statements given by some accused/victims and witnesses clearly point out the offence of money laundering".

There was neither justification nor evidence to show that the source of huge cash deposits is from his genuine income," the ED said.

The agency told the court that it requires Balaji's custody to "confront" him with those people whose statements it has already recorded and to trace the "end-use of the huge amounts of monies which appear to have been laundered in this case for which he (Balaji) could not produce documents despite sufficient opportunity".

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement