On Sunday (13 August), the Enforcement Directorate (ED) arrested Tamil Nadu Minister Senthil Balaji’s brother RV Ashok in connection with a money laundering case from Kerala’s Kochi. The Minister’s brother had reportedly skipped several summonses sent by the central probing agency which prompted his arrest.
Balaji’s brother, Ashok has been arrested by the same ED team, which has been probing the minister’s case. This development comes a day after the ED filed a chargesheet against Tamil Nadu Minister Senthil Balaji. The central probe agency filed a chargesheet comprising 3000 pages in a money laundering case against the DMK MLA.
However, sources claim that the court is yet to take cognisance of the charge sheet filed under various sections of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). As per media reports, in its charge sheet, the ED has included various documents seized, purported cash receipts recovered and Balaji’s statement that was recorded by the agency over the last few days. Currently, the agency has only named Senthil Balaji in its chargesheet.
Meanwhile, on the 10th of August, the ED team froze a 2.49-acre land located in Karur worth more than Rs 30 crores. The property seized by the agency belongs to Ashok’s wife and it was done after several rounds of raids and a detailed inquiry into assets acquired by DMK minister Senthil Balaji and his relatives.
However, the ED is expected to file a supplementary charge sheet as many more individuals including members of Balaji’s family have not deposed before the agency till now. Evidently, the ED recently said in a statement that Balaji’s brother RV Ashok Balaji, his (Ashoks’) wife Nirmala and mother-in-law P Lakshmi were sent multiple summons to join the probe and record their statements but they are “yet to appear in person, demonstrating a lack of cooperation with the ongoing investigation”.
On Saturday (12 August), the same day when the ED filed chargesheet in the case, the central agency produced Tamil Nadu Minister Balaji before Principal Sessions Judge S Alli’s court. Subsequently, the court sent Balaji into judicial custody till 25 August and the DMK leader has been lodged in Puzhal Central Jail, in Chennai.
The ED earlier claimed that during 2014-15, Balaji “misused” his office for illegal gratification and “engineered” a job racket scam in the state transport undertakings.
The candidates purportedly paid kickbacks through Balaji’s associates including his brother R V Ashok Kumar and his personal assistants B Shanmugam and M Karthikeyan. The ED stated that this led to jobs being awarded at the expense of deserving candidates.
Less than a week ago, on 7 August, the Supreme Court dismissed two pleas filed before the apex court challenging the ED custody of Senthil Balaji and seeking the court to release him, however, the court dismissed the pleas.