In a brief issued on Thursday, the Enforcement Directorate stated it has attached a “benami” asset worth Rs 55 crore of DMK MP A. Raja — 45 acres of land in Coimbatore district in Tamil Nadu — under the anti-money laundering law.
The 59-year-old Raja is currently a DMK MP from the Nilgiris Lok Sabha seat.
A benami property means asset affixed with “no name” or “without name” and such are those in which the real beneficiary is not the one in whose name the property has been purchased. The land was purchased by a company allegedly linked to Raja, in lieu of granting environmental clearance to a Gurugram-based real estate company. The transaction took place during Raja’s stint as Union minister for environment and forests between 2004 and 2007. The land is held in the name of a “benami” company of Raja, the ED statement added.
“The real estate company (listed on the BSE) gave kickbacks to A. Raja as quid pro quo for awarding the environmental clearance in 2007. The pretext for payment was land commission income in the hands of one benami company of A. Raja.”
The said company, according to the ED, was never engaged in any business activity since inception and the entire money received in the company was “quid pro quo” from the real estate deal and was used for acquiring land in Coimbatore. The company was incorporated by Raja in 2007, in the name of his family member, with the sole objective of using it as a vehicle to park the proceeds of crime.
“Thus, the 45 acres of land in Coimbatore worth Rs 55 crore have been purchased directly using the proceeds of crime, (illegal payment made as quid pro quo for obtaining environmental clearances) have been provisionally (under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act) attached,” it noted.
The money laundering case stems from an earlier CBI complaint against Raja, in which the latter agency filed a chargesheet in August before a special court in Chennai.
The CBI had charged Raja for allegedly amassing disproportionate assets to the tune of Rs 5.53 crore during his tenure as the Union environment minister in the UPA government.
The politician has been in the crosshairs of the ED and the CBI earlier after the two Central agencies investigated his role in the 2G spectrum allocation criminal case during the tenure when Raja was the Union telecom minister.
He was arrested by the CBI in 2011 but acquitted by a special court in 2017 as the agencies failed to prove any charges of corruption against him.