Chennai tea vendor lands in money laundering soup

More than Rs 3 lakh found in his bank accounts in the city

Chennai tea vendor lands in money laundering soup

A tea vendor  who used to “distribute food items” to officials at the Meenambakkam airport terminal since 1987 was arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on charges of transacting illegal money to the tune of several lakhs.

The CBI also conducted a search of accused Kumar's house in connection with a bribery case and seized his assets, which included large cash deposits and 2.5 kg of gold jewellery. Cash of more than Rs 3 lakh was also found in three bank accounts belonging to him in the city.

The bribery case dates back to 2009, when the CBI had conducted searches on the export and import cargo office of the Chennai airport on alleged charges of corruption in the operations of the unit involving officials of the Customs Department and others.

The CBI later arrested Kumar, a class V dropout, and handed over the case to Enforcement Directorate (ED) for probe under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.
The ED's probe threw up an interesting modus operandi about how Kumar, who used to work in tea shops since childhood, allegedly connived with airport and Customs officials and accumulated illegal wealth and gold ornaments.

Kumar had a duty pass to enter the high-security airport area, and over time had become good friends with the officials posted there.

According to the charge sheet filed in this case by the probe agencies, it all began in 2000 when the officials allegedly asked Kumar to “get money and goods from clearing and forwarding agents” on behalf of them and promised to share a part of the booty.

Kumar, who the agencies said “was in good books” of the officials, was tasked to collect all these kickbacks in order to evade anti-corruption agencies.

However, the CBI came calling in 2009 once it was tipped off about these illegal dealings.
Kumar, who also owns a house, stated in his statement recorded with the ED that he purchased a huge number of gold jewellery from the kickbacks he got as it was “risky to retain cash”.

Kumar also started filing income tax returns posing as proprietor of a firm in order to show the bribe money as “legitimately earned” and to dodge the investigators.
The ED, after finishing its probe, attached his movable assets in September last year.

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