The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has arrested Tamil Nadu Minister Senthil Balaji's brother Ashok in a money laundering case, India Today reported on Sunday. The arrest comes after Ashok purportedly skipped several summonses sent by the probe agency. He was arrested by the same ED team, which has been probing the minister.
The development comes just a day after the ED filed a chargesheet against Senthil Balaji. So far, only Senthil Balaji has been named in the chargesheet.
Earlier this week, the ED had frozen a 2.49-acre land located in Karur, valued at more than Rs 30 crore, belonging to Ashok's wife Nirmala, after several rounds of raids and a detailed inquiry into assets acquired by Balaji and his relatives.
In June, the ED arrested Balaji in a money laundering case based on a case registered by the Central Crime Branch police, Chennai. Balaji has been facing action in a corruption case in which cash was taken for providing jobs when he was the transport minister.
In November 2014, the Metropolitan Transport Corporation, wholly owned by Tamil Nadu, issued five advertisements calling for applications for various posts, including that of drivers, conductors, junior tradesman (trainee), junior engineer (trainee), and assistant engineer (trainee).
Interviews were held in December 2014, and the list of selected candidates was published subsequently. However, a person, Devasagayam, later filed a complaint against 10 individuals, alleging he had paid Rs 2.6 lakh to a conductor to secure the job for his son but the job was not given. He said when he confronted the conductor, he was directed to several other people and his request for a refund was also overlooked.
Another complainant, Gopi, filed a petition in March 2016 with the Commissioner of Police, claiming that he had applied for the post of conductor. After the interview, he was approached by one Ashokan, who claimed to be Senthil Balaji's brother, and one Karthik, who claimed to be the minister's brother-in-law.
They demanded a bribe for securing the appointment, and Gopi paid Rs 2.4 lakh to them. Since the police did not register his complaint, Gopi filed a petition in the Madras High Court, seeking direction from the court to the Police Commissioner to register his complaint and investigate it.
A few more complaints were filed later in the same case. In a complaint filed in August 2018, K Arulmani claimed that a huge amount of Rs 40 lakh was collected by his friends who wanted employment in the Transport Corporation and that the money was actually paid to Shanmugam, PA to Minister Senthil Balaji, at the Minister's residence in the first week of January 2015.
The complaint alleged that after the money was paid to Shanmugam, the complainant also met Ashok Kumar (brother of the Minister) and Senthil Balaji (Minister), and the Minister assured them of getting appointment orders issued. This complaint was registered by the Chennai Police.
The ED had earlier claimed that Balaji "engineered" a job racket scam in the state transport undertakings during 2014-15 with purported kickbacks paid by candidates through his associates who include his brother RV Ashok Kumar and his personal assistants B Shanmugam and M Karthikeyan. "This led to jobs being awarded at the expense of deserving candidates," the ED had alleged.
(With inputs from Pramod Madhav and Munish Chandra Pandey)
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