Sekar Reddy’s ‘secret diary’: Were OPS, other ministers on mining baron’s payroll?
Sekar Reddy vehemently denied that he ever wrote a diary and that he had no commercial relationship with any politician
If contents of a diary seized by the Income Tax department from Sekar Reddy – industrialist and mining baron – are to be believed, then half of the Tamil Nadu Cabinet was on his payroll.
Five pages of the diary, which have notings on some days between April and November 2016, show alleged payments made to many ministers and MLAs part of the AIADMK, and various others, to the tune of over Rs 48 crore.
It is the name of the man who started a ‘dharmayuddham’ in Tamil Nadu – Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam – that allegedly stars most number of times in the pages that have been accessed.
Though diary entries are being investigated by the I-T department, and nothing is conclusive, a nexus between the ruling class of Tamil Nadu and the mining baron has been hinted at by several people over the last few months. The diary goes on to add fuel to these allegations.
However, speaking to TNM, Sekar Reddy said he had no habit of writing a diary. "What should I react to? Why should I react? First, tell me whose diary is this? Because I don't have a habit of keeping a diary," he said.
J Sekar Reddy, an industrialist and mining baron, became the poster boy for the black money crackdown after demonetisation last year. It was on December 9, 2016 that Income Tax officials carried out raids and seized Rs 96.89 crore cash in old high denomination notes, and over Rs 9 crore in Rs 2,000 currency, along with gold weighing over 100 kg.
Sekar was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate in March on money laundering charges. This after the ED had registered a case against him under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering (PMLA).
What the diary contains, allegedly about OPS
The contents of the diary, first published in The Week magazine by Lakshmi Subramanian, show at least five transactions in which the name “OPS” or the name of his secretary Ramesh have been written. Two entries, on 31.8.2016, and on a November 2016 date, mention “Periyavar”; investigators are probing whether Periyavar - which could be translated to “elder man” or “big man” – could refer to O Panneerselvam.
The transactions that mention either OPS, Ramesh or Periyavar are:
OPS Ramesh - Rs 50 lakh on 14.7.2016
OPS Ramesh - Rs 25 lakh on 20.7.2016
m. Periyavar/Ramesh - Rs 3.5 crore on 31.8.2016
OPS Ramesh - Rs 3.7 lakh on 28.10.2016
OPS adv - Rs 3.7 lakh on 28.10.2016
OPS Ramesh garden expenses - Rs 20 lakh on 29.10.2016
Periyavar m. - Rs 25 lakh in November 2016
A payment of Rs 1 crore made in the name of “Advo Kasi” is being investigated as to whether it was made to O Panneerselvam’s son-in-law, who incidentally is an advocate named Kasinathan.
When asked about his relationship with OPS, Sekar Reddy said, "He had come to the Tirupati temple and since I was in the Board, I took him inside and posed for a photograph with him. There is nothing else." He also insisted that he has no commercial relationship with any of the people mentioned in the diary. "I don't know with what interest and who has released this diary," Sekar Reddy said agitatedly.
The diary notings also talk about gold and silver gifts to various individuals. I-T officials are probing if the diary notings where a circled “m.” appears, refer to payments to ministers in the TN cabinet.
Two diary notings in November 2016 refer to “HM” and “Health”, which the I-T department suspects might refer to Health Minister C Vijayabaskar. Following raids on Sekar Reddy, Vijayabaskar too was raided by the I-T department in April 2017.
One entry says a payment of 1 crore was made to “HM Old”, which could indicate the settlement of an old due. The very next entry says “Health - Rs 5 crore”. A previous entry, on 27.6.2016, for Rs 1 crore, says “HM”.
There is a diary noting dated 28.8.2016, which says “TR” and a circled “m.”, against Rs 1 crore. This, investigators suspect, could refer to Transport Minister MR Vijayabhaskar.
The other diary notings which mention a circled “m.” – suspected to refer to ministers:
m. Thangamani Dinesh EB - Rs 50 lakh on 17.4.2016
m. Thangamani - Rs 50 lakh on 17.6.2016
m. Revenue PSO - Rs 25 thousand on 22.6.2016
Environment m. PA - Rs 2 lakh on 30.8.2016
m. Revenue ex-PSO Perumal - Rs 10 thousand on 28.10.2016
m. I/Ramesh - Rs 1 crore on 31.10.2016 (This could indicate Industries Minister MC Sampath, investigators suspect.)
Krishnasamy MLA - Rs 5 lakh on 21.6.2016 (This could indicate the leader of Puthiya Tamizhagam party, investigators suspect.)
Dindigul local m. - Rs 5 lakh on 27.6.2016 (This could indicate Forest Minister Dindigul Sreenivasan, investigators suspect.)
There are notings of small payments made allegedly to I-T officers, a collector’s car rent etc. There is also a payment on 28.6.2016 in the name of Mannargudi Mahadevan for Rs 10 lakh.
This, investigators suspect, could refer to Sasikala’s nephew, who died on April 15 this year.
There is also a big payment in the name of “Poo”, for Rs 1.5 crore. Investigators are probing whether this could refer to Poongundran, the PA of late TN CM Jayalalithaa.
There are two payments which refer to “garden”, which could indicate Jayalalithaa’s residence, Poes Garden, investigators suspect. Both these payments were around Rs 3 lakh each.
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IT IS UNCLEAR IF THE SEARCHES ARE RELATED TO THE RAIDS THAT TARGETED SASIKALA’S FAMILY MEMBERS.
Income Tax Department carried out raids across 33 locations in Tamil Nadu on Tuesday, with 21 premises in Chennai coming under the scanner. The searches targeted Marg Group, Patel Group, Milan Group and Ganga Foundations Group.
Spectrum Mall located at Perambur in north Chennai was also searched by I-T sleuths. Spectrum Mall belongs to Ganga Foundations Group, property developers based in Chennai.
While the I-T searches are part of the continued crackdown on shell companies, it is unclear if the searches are related to the raids that targeted properties and businesses belonging to ousted AIADMK leader VK Sasikala’s family members and associates.
On November 9, Income Tax Department officials carried out search operations for five days on 187 premises belonging to Sasikala’s kin and associates. The establishments that came under the scanner included Jazz Cinemas, which is run by Sasikala’s nephew Vivek Jayaraman, and party mouthpieces Jaya TV and Namadhu MGR.
Sasikala’s nephew Vivek Jayarman, his sisters and Jayalalithaa’s personal secretary Poongundran were also called for inquiry by the Income Tax department. Reports suggest that I-T officials have found documents that show unaccounted investments of Rs 1430 crore.
However, days after the raids ended, I-T officials took many in the ruling AIADMK by surprise, when they searched late Chief Minister Jayalalithaa’s Poes Garden residence in Chennai. The late-night searches on November 17 angered several party persons, with many hitting out at the BJP-led Centre for orchestrating the raids.
While sidelined AIADMK Deputy General Secretary TTV Dhinakaran had accused the BJP of using the I-T raids to remove his aunt Sasikala and him from politics, he called the searches at Jayalalithaa’s residence as a betrayal to her.
"Whatever the reason behind the I-T raids at Poes Gardens, this is a betrayal to Amma's atma. Edappadi and Panneerselvam are behind this betrayal," Dhinakaran had tweeted following the raids on November 17.
However, the ruling AIADMK distanced itself from the I-T raids targeting Jayalalithaa’s residence then and chose to attack Sasikala and her family. Tamil Nadu Fisheries Minister Jayakumar said, “The raids that happened at Amma’s residence have caused us great pain. But after Amma’s death, Sasikala and her relatives including Dhinakaran, lived in that house so that is the problem. So, people of Tamil Nadu need to understand because of whom this problem has happened. Sasikala and her family are the reason. The person whom we honour as our god, raids at Amma’s house has caused great pain.”
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