Mis­ter Reddy Money

The min­ing baron’s pa­pers are giv­ing the AIADMK sleep­less nights

India Today - - STATES - By Amar­nath K. Menon

Adi­ary and other in­crim­i­nat­ing pa­pers seized from sand min­ing baron J. Sekhar Reddy sug­gest pay­offs in the hun­dreds of crores to politi­cians— in­clud­ing AIADMK min­is­ters—and of­fi­cials in the state ad­min­is­tra­tion. Cen­tral rev­enue of­fi­cials es­ti­mate that he handed out “at least Rs 400 crore” to party can­di­dates and work­ers in the run-up to the 2016 assem­bly polls. The rev­e­la­tions couldn’t have come at a worse time for Chief Min­is­ter Edap­padi K. Palaniswami’s gov­ern­ment, strug­gling as it is with a fac­tional feud that could tear the party asun­der.

On May 5, the En­force­ment Di­rec­torate (ED) at­tached prop­er­ties worth Rs 33. 7 crore of Reddy and his as­so­ciates, un­der the Pre­ven­tion of Money Laun­der­ing Act. The busi­ness­man from Chit­toor, Andhra Pradesh, has been in trou­ble since last Novem­ber, when raids on his home, as­so­ciates, of­fices of his SRS Min­ing Com­pany and other fa­cil­i­ties un­earthed the in­crim­i­nat­ing doc­u­ments. In raids in De­cem­ber


2016, in­come tax author­i­ties seized Rs 131 crore in cash, in­clud­ing Rs 34 crore in new Rs 2,000 notes, be­sides 177 kg of gold from Reddy and his as­so­ciates K. Srini­va­sulu and Prem Ku­mar. The CBI then ar­rested Reddy for tax eva­sion. He got bail af­ter spend­ing 87 days in jail, only to be ar­rested again at the be­hest of the ED.

All this, how­ever, is just the tip of the ice­berg. Reddy is an ex­tra­or­di­nary busi­ness­man with top-level con­nec­tions in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. In many in­stances, he is said to have kept a record of the sums given with sig­na­tures. Reddy’s con­nec­tions even landed him a seat on the pres­ti­gious board of the Tiru­mala-Tiru­pati Dev­asthanam, man­agers of the rich­est Hindu shrine in In­dia. Of course, he was sum­mar­ily sacked by Andhra CM N. Chan­drababu Naidu af­ter news of the Rs 131 crore stash be­came pub­lic. (Naidu quickly re­placed him with Sudha Murthy, wife of In­fosys founder N.R. Narayana Murthy, to pre-empt any con­tro­ver­sies that might drag in the Tiru­mala tem­ple.)

Investigations have also pointed to Kolkata busi­ness­man Paras­mal Lodha, who al­legedly helped con­vert over Rs 25 crore in old cur­rency for Reddy post-de­mon­eti­sa­tion. Reddy also had busi­ness links with Vikram Rao, the son of for­mer state chief sec­re­tary P. Rama Mo­hana Rao, who was re­moved from the post last De­cem­ber fol­low­ing IT searches at his home and of­fice. Oth­ers al­legedly associated with Reddy in­clude health min­is­ter C. Vi­jayabaskar, re­port­edly the big fish in the net in the cash-for-votes scan­dal that led to the Elec­tion Com­mis­sion can­celling the re­cent RK Na­gar by­elec­tion.

The Palaniswami ad­min­is­tra­tion will now be un­der tremen­dous pres­sure to or­der an of­fi­cial probe in the case. Ex-CM O. Pan­neer­sel­vam (OPS), who leads the rebel AIADMK fac­tion, is also not in the clear. Images of him with Reddy at Tiru­mala were in cir­cu­la­tion soon af­ter the lat­ter’s ini­tial ar­rest. In a dam­age-con­trol mea­sure, OPS acolytes had then clar­i­fied that Reddy re­ceived him at the tem­ple in his ca­pac­ity as board member (an un­com­mon prac­tice at Tiru­mala).

EN­TER SAND­MAN Ex-CM O. Pan­neer­sel­vam (left) with Sekhar Reddy at Tiru­mala

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