In a significant blow to the sand mining mafia operating in Tamil Nadu, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) has attached assets valued at nearly Rs 130 crore. The seized assets include a large number of excavators allegedly utilised in unauthorised sand mining activities, along with the freezing of bank accounts belonging to sand quarrying contractors affiliated with the ruling DMK party.
The ED’s action comes as part of its ongoing investigation into illegal sand mining operations in the state. On September 12, 2023, the agency conducted raids at 34 locations across six districts of Tamil Nadu. These raids targeted eight sand mining yards, as well as the residential and business premises of several individuals, including S Ramachandran, K Rathinam, their associates, auditor P Shanmugaraj, and officials from the TN public works and water resources department.
The raids were initiated following the registration of FIRs alleging large-scale illegal sand mining in river sand and gravel quarries. Numerous complaints had been lodged with law enforcement agencies, prompting the ED to take action. During the raids, the agency seized incriminating documents, including diaries and fake sale receipts with counterfoils and QR codes, indicating illicit sand sales.
In addition to freezing bank accounts totaling Rs 12.82 crore, the ED confiscated unaccounted cash amounting to Rs 2.33 crore, along with gold weighing 1024.6 grammes valued at Rs 56.86 lakhs.
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) summoned district collectors from Tiruchy, Vellore, Ariyalur, Karur, and Thanjavur on November 17 to provide details of sand mining activities permitted in their respective districts. This move prompted shock among the collectors, leading them to escalate the matter to the Chief Secretary of Tamil Nadu.
Responding to the summons, the Madras High Court intervened in November, staying the ED’s directive to the district collectors. Justices SS Sundar and Sunder Mohan, in their order, expressed the court’s prima facie conviction that the ED, without identifying the proceeds of crime related to the scheduled offense, was attempting to establish a connection to potential offenses.
The ED contended that approximately 24 lakh units of sand were illegally mined within two years, amounting to a staggering value of Rs 4,730 crore. The agency accused the state of obstructing an ongoing money laundering investigation related to the proceeds of crime generated from scheduled predicate offences, for which FIRs were registered across all districts in the state.
Highlighting discrepancies, the ED claimed that against the permitted mining area of 195.37 hectares, the actual impacted area due to sand mining reached 987.01 hectares. The agency also presented statements from senior engineers and officers of the water resources department, indicating widespread illegal sand mining activities in Tamil Nadu.
Possessing credible scientific evidence, including drone and LiDAR surveys, bathymetric surveys, and satellite imagery processing, the ED argued for the prevalence of rampant illegal mining in various districts. Seeking assistance from the National Remote Sensing Centre, ISRO, and IIT-Kanpur for a technical study, the ED informed the Madras High Court that the total value of illegally mined sand over the past one or two years could be around Rs 4,730 crore, significantly higher than the Rs 36.45 crore officially recorded.
The legal intervention by the Madras High Court adds a new dimension to the ongoing battle between the ED and the state authorities over alleged irregularities in the sand mining sector.
The Madras High Court, in a recent development, did not halt the Enforcement Directorate (ED) investigation into illegal sand mining in Tamil Nadu. Despite the ongoing legal battle between the ED and the Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption (DVAC), which resulted in the arrest of ED officer Ankit Tiwari in December, the court permitted the sand mining probe to proceed.
Ankit Tiwari’s arrest by the DVAC on charges of accepting a bribe of Rs. 20 lakh led to a jurisdictional dispute and conflicts over the arrest, including the denial of the FIR copy and the alleged removal of sensitive documents from the ED office after an illegal raid. The court’s decision ensures the continuity of the ED’s investigation into the sand mining scandal.
Gudiyatham Kumaran, formerly the deputy secretary of policy propagation for the DMK and an official spokesperson, made explosive allegations against Water Resources Minister Duraimurugan and his son Kadir Anand, who serves as the Vellore Lok Sabha MP. In a viral video circulated last November, Kumaran accused the senior DMK leaders of being embroiled in a significant sand mining scam.
Kumaran claimed that Duraimurugan amassed a staggering Rs 60,000 crores through illicit sand mining activities. The allegations have stirred controversy, raising concerns about the involvement of prominent DMK figures in the alleged scam. The DMK, in response, expelled Gudiyatham Kumaran following the surfacing of the video. The accusations add a new layer to the ongoing discussions surrounding illegal sand mining in Tamil Nadu, where the Enforcement Directorate has undertaken investigations and faced jurisdictional challenges.