Officials of Tamil Nadu’s Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption (DVAC) on Tuesday carried out search operations at former Minister S.P. Velumani’s residence in Coimbatore.
Searches were also carried out on the premises of persons who are closely associated with Velumani.
In all, about 60 premises were searched by DVAC officials in Coimbatore, Chennai, and other places in Tamil Nadu.
Velumani was the Local Administration Minister in the AIADMK government led by K. Palaniswami and was said to be instrumental in the party winning a majority of the seats in the Coimbatore and western belt in the Assembly polls held in April.
On hearing the news about the DVAC raid, AIADMK cadres assembled in front of his residence in Coimbatore and shouted slogans.
The supporters of Velumani also held a protest at the MLA Guest House, where he was questioned by the DVAC officials.
Search operations were carried out at the residences of Chennai Corporation Chief Engineer L. Nandakumar and former Chief Engineer Pugalenthi.
The Tamil Nadu government recently told the Madras High Court that it has decided to reopen and probe the complaint against Velumani which was closed earlier when the AIADMK was in power.
The High Court had granted eight weeks time to the state government to probe and file its affidavit.
The state government had told the Court that the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report has concurred with the complaint of NGO Arappor Iyakkam.
The two complainants had alleged that Velumani had extended large scale favouritism by abusing his official position as Minister in the matters of awarding ‘construction’ and ‘supply of goods/services’ tender works in Greater Chennai and Coimbatore Municipal corporations to his close associates, including his brother, their relatives and their associated companies.
On Monday, the DVAC had registered an FIR against 17 persons/companies including Velumani, his associates, and unnamed officials on complaints lodged by DMK MP R.S. Bharathi and Arappor Iyakkam’s Convenor Jayaram Venkatesan in 2018.
The FIR also cited the High Court’s direction that “the state should spare no efforts in getting to the bottom of the matter and proceed against those found to be responsible for the irregularities” and to conduct further investigation in the light of the CAG report.
The DVAC said in the FIR that its probe revealed, cognisable offence warranting registration of a criminal case.
From 2014 to 2018 when Velumani was Municipal Administration Minister, the total worth of tenders allotted to companies closely associated with him were Rs 464.02 crore in the Greater Chennai Corporation and Rs 346.81 crore in the Coimbatore Municipal Corporation.
The officials of these two bodies allegedly violated the provisions of Tamil Nadu Transparency in Tenders Act and other rules while awarding the tenders as per the directions of Velumani.
According to the FIR, tenders were bid in collusion and accused companies/firms/propriety colluded among themselves and submitted their online Bids using the same Standard Internet Protocol (IP-IV) Address, on same date and one after the other, which implies, all the persons operated from same computer, establishing their collusion against the existing Rules.
Meanwhile, the AIADMK has termed the raids are politically motivated and the party would face it.
Last month, the DVAC carried out search operations at the premises belonging to AIADMK leader and former Transport Minister M.R. Vijayabhaskar.
Soon after the raids at Vijayabhaskar’s places, the AIADMK leaders – party Coordinator O. Panneerselvam, Joint Coordinator Palaniswami, Velumani and others went and met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah.