The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has attached assets worth Rs 528 crore in connection with its money laundering probe in the Madurai granite scam case of Tamil Nadu.
The agency has issued orders for the provisional seizure of the assets, 1,625 immovable properties and fixed deposits, under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).
The ED had clubbed 48 FIRs of the state police in this case and booked a criminal complaint under PMLA few years back.
“During investigation, it was observed that during the period 2006-2013, they (Ms PRP Granites and Ms PRP Exports) acquired about 1,625 immovable properties of registered value of about Rs 103 crore from the said proceeds of crime,” the agency said in a statement.
“It was also noticed that over Rs 32 lakh was in fixed deposits. As these properties are involved in money laundering, the said Rs 32,57,275 in the form of fixed deposits and 1,625 immovable properties of present market value of Rs 528 crore in the name of Ms PRP Exports and Ms PRP Granites and have been provisionally attached under the provisions of PMLA,” it added.
During investigations, it said, the agency noticed that the two firms and their partners “have entered into a criminal conspiracy to illegally quarry multi-colour granite stones from the non-lease hold lands.
“In this process they submitted forged and fabricated documents/lease agreements relating to adjoining lease hold lands so as to obtain mining permissions. They have resorted to illegal quarrying from the government Poramboke lands by removing the boundary stones erected by the Revenue department,” the agency said.
It added that the probe found “they (firms and partners) used various machinery and explosive materials without adhering to statutory obligations and safety precautions causing harm to human lives.
“They forged and fabricated documents for transporting illegally acquired granite blocks so as to cheat the statutory authorities and to camouflage illegally earned income,” it said.
Investigations revealed that the firms were selling the “illegally mined granite blocks in the international/domestic market in excess of the declared quantity and realised the sale proceeds. The same were re-invested in acquisition of the immovable properties and mining lease licence and got further additional revenues.
“Thus the proceeds of crime were integrated and projected as money acquired through legitimate business.”
An attachment of assets action under PMLA is aimed to deprive the accussed from taking benefits of their suspected ill-gotten wealth and such an order issed by the agency can be appealed before the Adjudicating Authority of the said Act within 180 days.
The granite scam came to the fore after the then District Collector U Sagayam in a report in May 2012 pegged the loss to the exchequer due to illegal granite quarrying in the district at about Rs 16,000 crore.