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CHENNAI: Cloak-and-dagger stuff added to the high drama in the massive income tax searches across Tamil Nadu on Thursday. To carry out searches on such an unprecedented scale, the income tax department had to adopt a ploy, faking a wedding entourage. The department hired more than 300 cars from a city operator and had stickers — ‘Srini weds Mahi’ — on all of them to carry officials to various destinations early on Thursday.
I-T hired more than 300 cars from a city operator and had stickers — ‘Srini weds Mahi
The taxis had stickers affixed in the front as well as on the rear to ensure the operation remained top secret. In almost all the searches conducted by the department since the demonetisation order came last November, officials of the department had used only department cars. “Thursday’s searches were of a massive scale and it was not possible to source department vehicles for all officials in Chennai. We then thought of hiring taxis in large numbers and Thursday being an auspicious day for marriages, we stuck stickers to camouflage our arrival at various destinations,” a senior I-T official told TOI.
There’s more. Drivers of the taxis were not allowed to use their cellphones until they dropped the officials at their respective destinations. “This again was to prevent leak of information about the searches. Some of the drivers of these taxis are also owners and must be well connected. We told the taxi company that the drivers will not be allowed to use their phones,” said the official.
Meanwhile, in all the premises where searches were conducted, Tamil Nadu police provided security to I-T department officials. Security personnel arrived in large numbers early at Jaya TV office at Ekkaduthangal and stood guard at the entrance. They also controlled the public, who were eager to take selfies and pictures of the building.
This was in stark contrast to the earlier searches, conducted by the department, on the premises of state health minister C Vijaya Baskar and former chief secretary Rama Mohana Rao. In both these instances, the department requested CRPF to provide security. “Now, the state and the Centre are on the same side, while V K Sasikala is on the opposite side. Therefore, the state police was sufficient for us. In the earlier instances, searches were against AIADMK government and the department needed security from an agency other than the local police,” said a former I-T commissioner. Meanwhile, I-T sources told TOI that the department received details about the names of companies and those involved in the Sasikala family from sources within the ‘unified’ AIADMK. “There was no dearth of information on Sasikala and her family. Since the unification of the EPS and OPS factions, Dhinakaran became the common enemy and many partymen volunteered information about Sasikala and her businesses,” he said.