Income tax officials searched Tamil Nadu chief secretary P Rama Mohana Rao’s residence in the Tamil Nadu capital, besides a dozen other locations, for suspected tax evasion by his son and relatives on Wednesday.
The searches are reportedly related to the department’s investigation into the biggest haul of cash and gold since the Narendra Modi government launched its demonetisation drive to weed out unaccounted wealth.
However, officials refused to divulge how Rao and his relatives are linked to the investigation.
The search began early in the morning at Rao’s home in the upscale Anna Nagar neighbourhood, where the state’s senior-most bureaucrat has being living for the past seven years.
Tax sleuths conducted simultaneous searches at properties connected to Rao and his family in the state as well as neighbouring Andhra Pradesh.
The AIADMK government had appointed Rao as the state’s top bureaucrat this June. He holds additional charge of vigilance commissioner and commissioner of administrative reforms.
Officials had seized cash to the tune of Rs 90 crore and 100 kg of gold bars on December 8, as part of a series of raids across the state capital.
The haul comprised scrapped Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes worth Rs 80 crore, while the rest of the amount was in new Rs 2,000 bills.
So far, Rs 130 crore in cash – of which Rs 34 crore was in new bills – and 177 kg of gold have been confiscated from various people.
The taxmen’s action gave West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, a strong critic of the demonetisation exercise, a chance to target the Centre. She said the “vindictive and unethical” act by central agencies devalues the institution of civil services head.
Tamil Nadu opposition leader and DMK treasurer MK Stalin called the action a disgrace to the state.
The BJP, however, defended the tax department by saying the searches prove the agency is working without discrimination.
In another development, CBI on Wednesday arrested prominent industrialist and businessman Sekhar Reddy, whose client list includes the state highways department and the public works department, along with his associate Srinivasa Reddy and their agent, Prem.
Sekhar Reddy was produced in the Madras high court in the evening and has been placed in CBI custody till January 3 for illegal money transactions.
Reddy is believed to be closely linked to senior bureaucrats in Tamil Nadu as well as the new chief minister, O Panneerselvam.
PTI, quoting CBI sources, said his links with the son of Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary Nadu P Rama Mohana Rao are also under the scanner of I-T department as it is believed that Reddy, a contractor, allegedly received his help to get state-wide sand mining contract.
(With agency inputs)