In one of the biggest seizures of unaccounted money in the country since demonetisation, I-T sleuths seized Rs105 crore in old and new currencies and 125 kg of gold bars worth Rs35 crore in raids on Chennai-based jewellery shops.
I-T sleuths in Chennai have unearthed a money laundering racket and seized cash worth Rs105 crore, including Rs10 crore in mostly new Rs2,000 notes and gold bars worth Rs35 crore from eight premises in Chennai, including two rooms of a star hotel and one place in Vellore.
This is the biggest seizure of unaccounted money since the centre announced demonetisation of Rs1,000 and Rs500 denomination currencies on 8 November.
"The raided premises belong to industrialist Shekhar Reddy, his associate Srinivasa Reddy and their agents, including a person called Prem Kumar. We also raided three jewellery shops," said an I-T official.
Shekhar Reddy is a member of the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams Board. Close to 60 officials were pressed into service for the raids, for which preparations had started on Monday.
Of the total seizure, Rs95 crore was in old demonetised currencies and Rs 10 crore mostly in the newly introduced Rs2,000 denomination currency.
The I-T teams also seized 125kg gold bars (each weighing 1kg) worth a total Rs35 crore, said the official. I-T sleuths were tipped off about Prem Kumar exchanging demonetised currencies for gold bars, and following his trail they stumbled upon the Reddy associates. They seized Rs6 crore in Rs2,000 denomination notes from the house of Shekhar Reddy at T Nagar.
Based on information gathered from him, the officials raided two rooms in a prominent hotel at Teynampet and seized 70kg of gold bars. The rooms have been sealed. The Reddys had booked the room in the name of one of their agents. Following the leads generated during the raids, the I-T officials conducted searches at three jewellery shops on NSC Bose Road at Broadway.
"While the Reddys claimed they had bought gold bars from jewellery shops, we are investigating how they managed to get Rs10 crore in Rs2,000 denomination notes when there is a restriction on cash withdrawal from bank accounts and people are standing in queues for hours to withdraw money from banks and ATMs," said the official. Apparently, some bank officials are also involved in the racket, said sources.
"The gang used to exchange demonetised currencies for gold and then convert it into new currencies. They had exchanged a lot of money in this manner since November 8 and we are tracking all those who are involved in the racket," the official said.
Shekhar Reddy is well connected to many bigwigs and was involved in river sand quarrying.