There is a huge scam in India’s granite stone trade. It is being uncovered in Tamil Nadu.
Currently estimated at Rs.17,000 crores, in my opinion, it will soon be discovered that the same is as big as the 2G scandal or even bigger.
As in the case of 2G Spectrum scandal, the involvement of the erstwhile first family of Tamil Nadu - headed by former CM Karunanidhi is evident.
I suspect the scandal’s tentacles will undoubtedly spread to Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh and expose murkier details.
First, read the latest agency report:
Police raid 23 homes of shady granite co owners
Madurai, Aug 13: Police raided the houses of granite companies’ owners and their kin and granite quarries among 23 places in a massive swoop across Madurai District in connection with the illegal granite quarrying scam that allegedly led to a staggering loss of Rs 16,383 crore to the State exchequer, Monday.
The granite scam in 175 quarries in Madurai District was uncovered by Former District Collector U Sagayam based on which the State Government had ordered a probe into it. Police registered 12 cases against six mining firms, including Olympus Granites Private Limited in which Union Minister M K Alagiri's son Durai Dhayanidhi is said to be a partner.
On the preliminary findings of official teams the District Collector Anshul Mishra raided PRP Granite Exports Company and sealed it on August 9 on the charges of flouting various government norms.
The police team, led by Superintendent of Police V Balakrishnan, split into several groups and were conducting searches in 23 places, including the houses of Granite Baron P R Palanichamy and S Dinakaran, Secretary of All India Forward Bloc (Dinakaran), a faction of the State party unit.
D Dinakaran is said to be the relative of Palanichamy.
Meanwhile, 32 teams formed by Anshul Mishra began their assessment on the quantum of granite stocked in the yard of P R P Granite Exports Company at Therkutheru in Melur Taluk, Monday morning.
Here is why:
Excerpts from the report of SUB- GROUP-II ON METALS AND MINERALS – STRATEGY BASED UPON THE DEMAND AND SUPPLY FOR MINERAL SECTOR of The Working Group on Mineral Exploration and Development (Other than Coal& Lignite) FOR THE 12TH FIVE YEAR PLAN GOVERNMENT OF INDIA PLANNING COMMISSION
The Planning Commission constituted a Working Group on Mineral Exploration and Development (other than coal and lignite) in the context of formulation of the Twelfth Five Year Plan (2012-17), for over all development of mining sector keeping in view of future requirement of sector, under the Chairmanship of Secretary, Ministry of Mines, Governments of India vide Office Order No I & M-3(24)/2010 dated 23.02.2011.
The Chairman of the Working Group constituted four Sub-Groups, of which Sub-Group-2 was set up on the Mineral Output Industries under my Chairmanship with Shri Bhupal Nanda as member secretary.
DIMENSIONAL AND DECORATIVE STONES
India is the largest producer of ‘Dimensional and Decorative Stones’ viz. marble, granite, sandstone, slate, flaggy limestone etc. which form a major component of the construction sector.
This sector accounts for 6-8% of the country’s GDP and is the second highest employer after agriculture.
The quality of Indian stones conforms to the highest International Standards and provides excellent uniformity and consistency.
The global stone production is over 126 million tonnes in the year 2009, with India followed by China, Turkey and Italy being the leading producers. As per the ‘World Marble & Stones’, 21st report by Carlo Montani, the major exporters of stones and stone products in the world are China (25.3%), Italy (13.5%), India (9.7%), Turkey (8.7%), Spain (6.8%), and Brazil (5.1%).
On the other hand, the total world stone imports during 2009 amounted to US$14081 million, with USA (14.6%), China (10.3%), South Korea (6.6%), Japan (6.2%), Germany (4.5%), France (3.7%), and Italy (3.5%) being the leading importing countries.
India possesses one of the best granite deposits in the world having excellent varieties comprising over 200 shades.
India accounts for over 20% of the world resources in granite.
The total Granite Reserves in India as per IBM are: 42,916 million cu. M.
The Indian stone production during the year 2009-10 is 35342 thousand tones, in value terms, the estimated turnover of the Indian Dimensional Stone market in 2009-10 was of the order of Rs.30,000 crores out of which the southern states accounted for Rs.18,000 crores, Rajasthan Rs.7000 crores, and the rest of India Rs.5000 crores.
Granite alone accounts for 2/3rd of the value of production.
Dimensional stone exports from India
India is amongst the leading exporter countries of stones in the world. Indian Stone Exports comprise mainly Granite Cut Blocks, Slabs, Tiles, Marble (especially green marble), Slate, Sandstone, Monuments and Handicrafts.
The major importers of Indian stones are USA, China, UK, Italy, Belgium, Germany, UAE, Hong Kong, Spain, Taiwan, Netherlands, Canada, Turkey, France, Russia and CIS countries.
Excerpts from Tamil Nadu Minerals Ltd [TAMIN] annual report
TAMIN has earned a niche for itself in the world granite market. TAMIN's pride and buyers' choices are Black, Kashmir white, Paradiso, Sivakasi yellow, Redwave and Raw silk dimensional blocks. The black granite of Kunnam is comparable to Ebony black of Sweden. It has been fetching high value in international market. TAMIN's Paithur black granite (with a brown back-ground) is also acclaimed as the choicest variety in international market. Paradiso material (introduced by TAMIN), is unique in colour and pattern and is exported in large quantity to Italian and German markets.
TAMIN's Kashmir white is the best of its kind in the world and it commands high values. TAMIN's green onyx is a rare and unique material and it has caught the fancy of most of the European countries. Apart from this, TAMIN has other colour material like Redwave, Colombo Jubrana and Sivakasi yellow, which are widely welcomed by International and Local buyers.
Black Granite isa variety of basic rock, geologically known as dolerites. It takes very high polish, displaying uniform grain size and equigranular texture. The rock can be cut into thin slabs.
Grey Migmatite Granite is an acidic rock with gneissic fabric popularly called as 'Paradiso'. The colour of the rock depends upon the colour of the constituent feldspar. It takes very high polish. The other colour granites include Granite gneiss, Leptynite, Syenite and Charnokite.
TSV Hari’s notes
Let us say a block of 10 M3 should weigh 20 Metric tonnes.
Let us assume a typical cheating export company has allowed a leeway of 30%.
The real weight which would say how much the stone block’s dimensions ought to be.
Upon doing that bit of math, the real dimension of the exported stone would be found out.
The difference in prices per M3 would give the game away.
TSV Hari’s notes:
The highest priced granite block at the quarry [or pit-head or at site] is around Rs.65,000 per M3.
The lowest can be Rs.12,500 per M3.
The FOB [Freight on board] ex-Chennai/Mangalore starts from roughly US$3000 per M3.
The cheating is done in several ways:
The easiest way is declaring the M3 dimension and allowing a huge leeway for the uneven surfaces on all sides. The decent private exporters allow a mere 2% but the corrupt, to keep money abroad allow a vast leeway – like 30%. Each percent means huge monies hidden abroad as it accounts for nearly 30% of the stone.
Can the extent of cheating be found out easily?
Very simply put, each stone has a known amount of specific gravity which will show the normal weight per cubic metre.
Measuring the allowable leeway would be easy on the basis of the weight as per the specific gravity when the blocks have been loaded in the container as the weighing cannot be falsified as the exports are confirmed by an insurance agent like Lloyds upon loading in the ship. Only upon the completion of this can one get the bill of lading encashed at the bank on the basis of the Letter of Credit.
The weight as per specific gravity will give the game away.
According to Government of India figures, the total exports of granite blocks amounted to Rs.80000 crores during the last fiscal.
Industry insiders indicate the stealing is triple the declared value.
And that means, the scandal in the export of rough blocks is around Rs.200,000 crores.
Most companies give credit LCs to their buyers abroad and demand a share in the sale in Europe – where prices are 4 times the Indian FOB price. From the final selling price in Europe, the cut demanded is 30%.
If the blocks were sold at the equivalent of Rs.200,000 in India, they are being sold at roughly 4 times that price. And that means Rs.800,000 crores. The hidden value is: Rs240,000 crores.
And this accounts for just the blocks.
Upon being cut and polished abroad, the price multiplier effect would be some 11 times or Rs. 24 lakh crores!
Projections for domestic consumption and exports
The growth is continuing and the demand for marble, granite, sandstone and other dimensional stones and stone products is anticipated to grow at around 15% CAGR.
A similar rate of growth in exports can also be achieved with the help of suitable policy framework, infrastructure and other facilities which are expected to be provided to the industry.
There is a strong need for well-planned, concerted and dedicated efforts towards export promotion of Indian stones. The emphasis needs to be on popularization of Indian stones in both the traditional markets and exploration of new avenues by strengthening the activities of the Centre for Development of Stones (C-DOS) in Rajasthan by upgrading it into a national centre of excellence. Alternative option for exporting granite and marble in processed form to maximize export earnings is to develop and promote artefacts and special decorative and ornamental items of high value addition.
There is tremendous skill in the country, which can be explored and supported with special incentives.
This can certainly bring about substantial foreign exchange addition, as well as significant employment generation.
Projections for investment in Dimensional stone industry
Present investment in dimensional stone industry in India is estimated at Rs.20, 000 crores.
It is expected that given the right policy support, the total turnover of the sector estimated to be around Rs. 30,000 crores (2009-10) will increase to over Rs. 40,000 crores by 2012-13, and thereafter double every five years considering an estimated growth rate of 15%.
To sustain this growth, it is estimated that investment in this sector will have to go up to about Rs. 1,07,500 crores by 2022 – 23 (including foreign investment).
Way back in 1985, my mentor in Tamil journalism Mr Cho S Ramaswamy named the article கல்லிலும் நஷ்டம் காணும் கலை or the art of sculpting losses even in stone – wherein I had exposed the sordid scandal in the export of granite blocks.
The same article had appeared in a Bombay based English Weekly Blitz.
I carried an investigation on the granite trade for nearly 8 months then and had found a major scandal running into several million dollars.
Here are its salient features:
At that point in time, the Chairman and Managing Director of Tamil Nadu Minerals Ltd [TAMIN] was one Dr S Saravanan.
I had found out that Dr Saravanan was underselling valuable granite blocks from Tamil Nadu – with special emphasis on a stone called Paradiso.
Found mostly in Krishnagiri and Dharmapuri districts, Paradiso has grey and violet wavy patterns and then suited burial ground moods in Western Europe where priests wore vestments in those colours during such solemn occasions. Till 1978, the material was mined, broken and used as blue-metal on railway tracks and to form roads.
Its true value was discovered by one indomitable man called R Veeramani – the founder of Gem Granites who has won innumerable awards in exports.
Veeramani had achieved the impossible.
Despite Paradiso being of unknown quality as a product, within a year since the AIADMK coming to power, Veeramani established a huge market for the stone in Western Europe.
By 1984, private exporters were selling the stone for roughly US$500 per M3 [cubic metre] in its main viable market.
By which time, Dr Saravanan, armed with a doctorate in geology had ensconced himself as the CMD of TAMIN.
Dr Saravanan had curtailed all the private exporters’ activities through a series of GOs, refused the auction of mines, converted the trade into his [Saravanan’s] monopoly, was selling the stuff at 30% of the market price abroad and what was worse, was allowing a leeway of 20% on the uneven corrugations in the blocks’ surfaces rendering the price at roughly 10% of the private exporters’ market price.
The sole distributorship of TAMIN materials was given to one Adam Tako, an architect of Hungarian extraction.
Till Dr Saravanan gave him the agency, Adam’s company was not known to the world, to borrow a cliché – from Adam.
Now, his company Tako Granites is a multi-billion Euro company.
Introduction of Tako Granit GmbH & Co. KG
The company Tako Granit GmbH & Co. KG and his registered office (Register No. 00085823 Industrie- und Handelskammer Rhein-Main dated 1960) is located at Rossdörfer Straße 32, D-64372 Ober-Ramstadt, Germany.
The activities of Tako Granit GmbH & Co. KG are the exploration of granite sources in countries like India, Russia and Brasilia. The employed team of high qualified engineers and Geologists of Tako Granit GmbH & Co. KG have developed and secured the supply of quality granites for over five decades in the highly competitive international market.
The special feature of Tako Granit GmbH & Co. KG is, getting acquainted with the quarry location, geological set up and topography of the area prior to the exploitation and marketing. The regularity with which our company makes a survey and locates a new type of granite and then interacts with exploitation agencies both in the private and public sectors is another noteworthy feature of our company. To secure the quality of Tako Granit GmbH & Co. KG hydraulic technology are used for cutting the granite rocks and dressing the blocks into sizes. This is to prevent the development of mini cracks when blasting techniques is adopted.
For example: our company has started to quarry a new material from Tamil Nadu, South India in the year 1979 - 1980; the material is named as “Paradiso”.
Within a period of 5 years, the quantity of rough blocks reached to several thousands of cubic meters, materials like: Charnakite (Orissa green), Yellow Leptynite (Juprana), Grano diorite (Wiskont White) Porphyry from Andhra Pradesh and (Multicolour red) material from Karnataka, Leptynite of South India region similarly, were all developed and marked by Tako Granit GmbH & Co. KG. The export potential of granite became bright and attractive in places wherever
Tako Granit GmbH & Co. KG set its activity. It is a fact that a heavy competition prevails for the material introduced by Tako Granit GmbH & Co. KG.
In view of the close interaction of Tako Granit GmbH & Co. KG with the Geological, Engineering and architectural institutions of the countries wherefrom our company exports granite, the company undertakes a thorough study about the reserves, colour, structural and tensile strength of the granites. This enables the customer to have a first hand information of physical, geological and engineering properties of granites supplied by our company.
Competitive pricing and maintenance of delivery schedule with stringent quality control are the imperative parameters that make us occupy a pride of place in the world market.
Special shipment: For flexible and quick delivery we arranging [sic] shipments of rough blocks in 20 container (appr. 26 MT net).
Each container can be loaded with different sizes of granite blocks and different type of granite as required by the customer.
Needless to add, everyone in India suspected that the difference was stashed in secret accounts abroad.
In October 1984, the then Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MGR fell sick and had to be transferred to the USA.
One of those strange things then was that MGR did not have any ill-gotten money stashed abroad.
The following is the shortened form of the explanation of the situation given to me by K Mohandas, MGR’s Man Friday in the police department:
Janaki Ramachandran [the world knows her as the thespian’s wife, but the fact is MGR had never legally married her] who was stuck in New York without much money, asked some of the so-called cabinet colleagues of the CM to get some money ‘organised’ abroad.
All of the rascals feigned sudden poverty.
A relative of Janaki was a senior officer in the railways. He suggested approaching Saravanan who was suspected to hold secret accounts abroad.
So Janaki phoned Saravanan.
Within an hour, US$ 1 million was transferred to the bank account of Janaki from a bank in Switzerland.
Therefore, MGR and more importantly Janaki remained indebted to Saravanan, who they knew, was underselling Tamil Nadu’s natural resources.
But, Saravanan had proved to be a friend in need and indeed. Hence Dr Saravanan cannot be touched by anyone.
When the story got published in Blitz, Dr Saravanan managed to get a retraction published to prove me wrong and had sent some nonsensical evidence. One of them was a letter purported to have been written by the owner of a granite factory cum showroom in Switzerland.
On the basis of the published retraction in Blitz, Saravanan managed to get some officers in the department of industries and others in TAMIN suspended and even dismissed.
Saravanan did not dare to come anywhere near Mr Cho whose honesty, integrity and bravery are legendary.
When I pointed out the gaffes of Saravanan to Mr Cho, being a good lawyer, he immediately pointed to the lacunae in the so called retraction paragraphs sent by TAMIN to Blitz.
To cut a long story short, that and several other connected events led to my travelling to Europe to investigate the other sordid details.
I was carrying the entire correspondence that Saravanan had sent to Europe.
A private detective who helped me in Frankfurt pointed to the address in Switzerland and the so-called Granite Factory called Granit-Marmor AG whose address was Via Simen, Lugano, CH and said:
CH stands for Confederation of Helvetia. Switzerland as a nation only exists in name abroad. Within the nation’s borders it is a confederation of cantons.
Lugano is a small city located on the Swiss-Italian border.
Due to its location, most of the Italian mafia types have their secret accounts there.
The population of Lugano is less than 30,000 but, it has some 39 banks – all of which offer numbered hence secret account facilities that are never betrayed.
Saravanan has sent the Bombay magazine a letter supposedly from a strange character based in Lugano whose family name is obviously Italian.
Do not believe me, and check the facts yourself in Switzerland. And you would know the truth.
It was the bitter winter of 1985 when I was in Lugano with temperature hovering around -5 C.
Located just 2 km from the Lugano central station, Via Simen is a small lane that cannot take two big cars together.
It had no shops, no factories and no nothing except a few office buildings.
All of them had glass facades and were locked to keep the cold out.
I peered through the glass doors at the address I had and could see a huge name plate of some 20 offices, the door marked ‘toilet’ in 3 languages and a NO SMOKING sign in German.
Armed with a camera, I took a few pictures and wandered in the deserted vicinity as it was a Thursday.
Spotting someone entering the building with his key, I followed him in appearing nonchalant.
Even as that gentleman went into the lift, having noticed the toilet, I rushed in, an act that indicated I knew the place well.
I heard the lift doors close and its rise.
Emerging from the toilet, I read the name board. None had Granit-Marmor on it, but one of them had a name that had been printed on the letter in my possession. Along with it was the legend ‘accountant’.
I knocked and entered the first floor office rather boldly.
A short white girl with pebble glasses greeted me.
Allo … Dr Sarfaaanaaan, she said and handed over a buff envelope containing some papers.
“All zee detaals in zee coffeer [cover].”
Turning on my charm, I said with a broad smile Grazi Señorita. It is very cold here. You give me an ash tray for my cigarette and make a good cup of Ristoretto for me, will you please?
The girl giggled.
You reffer me zee Spanish method and make me Miss. I am Italian and married. You call me Mrs. …. Sir … you no smoke in ‘ere. Aff to do outzide zis bildung.
I turned on my charm even more.
OK. I will come back in 2 minutes after I feed nicotine into my lungs. I know it is bad … but I am not going to kiss you anyway!
She giggled even more.
I walked out of the building as though I did not have a care in the world, flagged a cab, rushed to the railway station, since I had a return ticket to Zurich, got into the first train, went into the restaurant car, ordered two brandies, quaffed them down to kill the excitement and then saw the papers. They pertained to secret bank accounts jointly held by Dr. Saravanan and Mrs. Kasturi Saravanan.
It did not take me long to figure out what was what was what.
The girl or her boss would soon find out that I was not Saravanan.
There were no cameras in that building so my face was not registered there.
But, if the accountant had connections to the Italian mob, finding me out was going to be easy.
I did not want to mess with the powerful international mob … so I mailed the papers to myself quietly – not wanting to be caught with them upon return to India – just for the heck of it.
Upon return to India, I suppressed the fact that I had the details of Dr. Saravanan’s Swiss accounts, but alleged that much in a writ petition filed in public interest in the Madras High Court.
One of the boldest advocates of all time, Mr. K.T. Palpandian appeared for me.
A few months later, I got a phone call from a man with a strange accent and he invited me for a drink at the Westminster Bar in what was Adyar Gate and is now Park Sheraton.
So we meet finally, he said.
Though I called myself Frank, all my friends call me by my first Christian name Franco. My family name is ….
It was the Lugano accountant.
We shadow boxed for an hour.
Looking a bird-like man and appearing to be a banker, he spoke softly – almost without accent.
How about some dinner?
The hotel did not mind serving us in the bar’s quiet corner.
I ordered a fried Pomfret and a carafe of mineral water.
Frank raised eyebrows.
Probably his research had told him that I am a vegetarian.
When the food arrived and we were alone, I picked the knife and fork from the plate, pierced the fish several times, packed it into the white-cloth napkin, dunked it into the carafe of water and wiped my hands on a different serviette.
Have you understood what I did, Frank?
It is an old Sicilian message. It means if there is ever an issue between us, you will not let the world have the evidence and bury it in deep water. But, how do you know it?
I am a voracious reader, Frank. A well-known author of Italian extraction called Mario Puzo wrote a book called The Godfather. This thing was mentioned in detail in that book while narrating a sequence of events.
Frank looked at me hard and carefully, without any expression.
If I have understood you correctly, when you keep your word, I will owe you a favour.
We have never met again.
After several hearings, the court upheld my contentions and ordered the constitution of a thorough enquiry into the allegations against Dr. Saravanan around 1988.
The officer ordered to do that was a superintendent of police Letika Saran, who recently retired under a cloud for having been one of the cat’s paws of the erstwhile CM Karunanidhi.
After MGR’s demise, Karunanidhi had become CM in 1989.
The same year, while flying back from New Delhi, Karunanidhi spotted me at the Palam Airport.
You seem to have put on weight, he said.
Karunanidhi’s conscience keeper Murasoli Maran was travelling with him. Maran made arrangements to my being shifted to the business class.
After the plane took off, Karunanidhi began talking me with a broad smile.
I have removed the corrupt official Saravanan – the fellow who hid money abroad in Switzerland. He obviously made a hell of a lot of money under the table. I did not know so much money is there in the granite trade. It seems something can be done very smartly in it. The trade, I believe is centred in Netherlands … or some other nation. I faintly remember you wrote something about this … why don’t you tell us how money can be made through granite trade?
Even as Karunanidhi had begun uttering the second sentence, Maran who was seated in the next row behind us had craned his neck to follow the conversation accurately.
How can you be so stupid, Mama? That file you signed … taking action against that pig Saravanan was prepared by none other than Hari … and I believe he had more or less dictated the findings to that girl officer Letika someone. Hari wrote against Saravanan because he is against corruption. And you are asking Hari to suggest ways to make money out of granite trade? How can you be so thoughtless?
Maran spat the words out.
Karunanidhi clammed up.
In 1993 as my Tamil version of Mahabharatam – the serial by made by the immortal BR Chopra was on air in Sun TV – the channel owned by the Maran siblings.
I had just recovered from a debilitating illness and was the Mylapore Shiva Temple for thanksgiving.
Saravanan swaggered into position opposite me.
You Brahmin pig, you thought you would bury me didn’t you? I offered you Rs.20 lakhs to surrender your papers and crawl back under the stone from where you had emerged. You refused, continued with the case, got me suspended, investigated and even ratted on me to that busybody Enforcement Directorate boss Bhurelal. I got him transferred, bought off everyone, got back my job, peacefully retired, have an option to stay in Singapore as a citizen and retain all the money – you termed ill-gotten! Look at me, you schmuck! I am standing erect, with my head held high and you cannot even stand properly!
The sneer finally got my goat.
I have no personal enemity with you Saravanan. But I know you have stolen from the people of Tamil Nadu. Since you are bragging about it at the altar of Lord Shiva, one day the destroyer will deliver a terrible painful punishment using the very money as an instrument.
Are you cursing me you Brahmin pig? Your stupid utterances will not work, you know! I have all the Hindu deities in my pocket!
Disgusted, I walked away and forgot about it till November 2008.
Dr Saravanan, his wife Kasturi and his maid servant had been brutally done to death that mild wintry morning in the early hours.
The then commissioner of police K Radhakrishnan went on record stating that nothing was missing from the home of Dr Saravanan.
I had hidden the papers stolen from Lugano somewhere close to Vadapalani.
I retrieved them.
Very near the Murugan temple, I went into an internet centre and began logging into the sites of those banks because I had all the details.
There had been 39 accounts in all.
All found there had been roughly € 42 million in them roughly one hour before I had logged in.
And at the time I was checking, each account had one Euro each!
I was dumbfounded, angry, sad and afraid.
Shutting down the computer, I rushed to the Murugan temple and began crying uncontrollably.
I said something in anger that day, O Lord! But 3 brutal murders are a bit too much and they are making me feel terribly guilty.
I was saying these words silently looking at the sanctum sanctorum that houses Lord Muruga.
Suddenly, a little boy – not more than 4 years old dashed against me and said, “Grandpa … why haven’t you had a dip till now?”
I was flummoxed and did not understand.
Go and have a dip, grandpa!
The boy was persistent.
Suddenly, a very presentable young lady picked up the child and chided him in English.
“Behave yourself, Murugan! You are disturbing the uncle here … now aren’t those bad manners?”
Her husband ticked off the lady almost immediately.
“How many times have I told you Parvathi that you should hold the child close and carefully? It is okay here … but just suppose this was a big fair … and …”
The lady sounded contrite.
“I am truly sorry, Shiv! Sorry uncle … next time, little Murugan…”
The couple went away.
The nickel dropped suddenly.
The Good Lord was telling me, Son! You have had nothing to do with the punishment meted out to Saravanan. But, if you are feeling bad, you wash off the sinful feeling by having a dip in the temple tank.
I remembered the promise to Frank.
Retrieving the sheaf of papers from my pocket, I tore them to little pieces, held them on my head with the left hand and took three dips in the dirty temple tank.
During the dips I let go of the papers, destroying the evidence once and for all as promised to the Italian.
A few months before, a report in the Indian Express had alleged that Dr Saravanan had stashed money abroad.
I had phoned the journalist concerned.
He was evasive.
He never got in touch with me again.
In 2010, after Rajendran took over as Commissioner of Police, Chennai, the triple murder of Saravanan, Kasturi and their servant was ‘solved’ with the arrest of 4 persons, retrieval of stolen jewels and cash and they were subsequently convicted.
The same Karunanidhi who ordered the investigation praised Rajendran and Letika [commissioner and DGP respectively] for solving the difficult, almost undetectable crime!
I accused Chennai police commissioner Rajendran and the freshly transferred Director General of Police Letika Saran of various omissions and commissions that included the ‘fixing’ of a murder case.
In November 2008, one Dr S Saravanan, former Chairman and Managing Director of the state government undertaking Tamil Nadu Minerals [TAMIN], his wife Kasturi and a servant maid were brutally killed with slit necks.
Excerpts from the report dated November 21 2008 from The Times of India
Triple murder shocks Chennai
A Selvaraj, TNN, Nov 21, 2008, 04.35am IST
CHENNAI: The thickly-populated KK Nagar residential area woke up on Thursday to the shocking news of the murder of a former chairman and managing director of Tamil Nadu Minerals Limited (TAMIN), his wife and their maid. S Saravanan (74), his wife Kasturi (73) and maid Anbarasi (17) were found hacked to death in their first floor house, near the police training college, on Kannappan Salai.
Unnikrishnan, a neighbour who went to wake up Saravanan for their usual morning walk, found the door open. On entering the house, he saw Saravanan’s body, with multiple injuries, in the kitchen.
Kasturi and Anbarasi were found with their throats slit in the master bedroom.
Police rushed to the scene and cordoned off the place. Sniffer dog Steffi ran till the end of the road and stopped clueless. Forensic and fingerprint experts collected evidence from the house.
Two knives were recovered from the kitchen.
Police said the assailants had dropped the knives there after wiping them clean.
They appeared to have searched the bureau and cupboards for valuables, and are believed to have left behind fingerprints.
Speaking to mediapersons after visiting the murder scene, city police commissioner K Radhakrishnan said,
“Kasturi’s jewels have not been taken away. Bureaus and cupboards were broken open. We are verifying whether any valuables are missing.”
Saravanan, who was a professor in the geology department of Presidency College, was appointed chairman and managing director of TAMIN by former chief minister MG Ramachandran. He married Kasturi, who went on to become an under-secretary in the state home department.
Saravanan was suspended by the then DMK government in 1989, for his alleged involvement in a mineral scam.
However, he was reinstated in 1993 and allowed to retire from service.
Police suspect more than one person to be involved in the murders.
Significantly, Dr Saravanan had been placed under suspension by the same Chief Minister M Karunanidhi in 1989 on the basis of a writ petition filed in the Madras High Court by one TSV Hari – poor old me!
Among other things, I had accused Dr Saravanan of stealing India’s mineral wealth – especially granites, underselling them abroad and stashing the money in Swiss banks.
The Madras High Court upheld my accusations and asked a senior police officer to enquire into the matter.
That officer was Letika Saran – then a superintendent of police introduced to me in the office of one of her seniors another IPS officer and a personal friend even today – Nataraj.
[Nataraj had been superseded by Saran – an act of the government challenged by him in court cases. Even before their disposal, he has crossed the superannuation threshold.]
Saran’s report had slammed Dr Saravanan.
Armed with massive incriminating evidence, Bhurelal, the Enforcement Directorate’s super-sleuth and boss rolled into one, had vowed to arrest and prosecute Dr Saravanan for various omissions and commissions.
Dr Saravanan managed to get Bhurelal transferred using his good offices within the Congress by reminding the party’s highest command that he had supplied a hewn black granite ‘hand’ from Orissa to be placed over the Shakti Sthal where Indira Gandhi had been cremated.
That sleight of hand did the trick.
Already under the scanner of Bhurelal, Rajiv Gandhi swallowed the bait hook, line and sinker.
Commissioner Radhakrishnan blotted his copybook over the attacks on lawyers in the premises of the Madras High Court and was transferred in 2009.
T Rajendran took over.
And then, this happened.
Excerpts from a report that appeared in The Hindu dated April 15 2010.
Cab driver plotted Ashok Nagar murder
CHENNAI: Four persons, including a woman, have been arrested in connection with a triple murder in Ashok Nagar in November 2008. The victims were a former senior official of TAMIN, his wife and a domestic help.
Some jewellery and foreign currency were seized, police sources said.
On instructions from Commissioner of Police T. Rajendran, a special team investigating the case made enquiries with cab drivers hired by the retired official Saravanan (74). Days after he was grilled by police, one of the drivers, Satish Kumar of Villupuram, allegedly committed suicide in his friend's house at MGR Nagar here.
This strengthened the suspicion of investigators on the complicity of Satish in the case, the sources said.
“Though Saravanan owned two cars, he used to hire drivers from a travel agency near his house. When police made enquiries about the drivers who frequently drove for him, it came to light that Satish had got friendly with the family. Knowing that police were tracking his movements, he committed suicide,” Mr Rajendran said.
On further investigation, police arrested Yasin alias Mohammed Yasin of Adambakkam and Udaya alias Udayakumar of Ashok Nagar.
The accused confessed to having conspired with Satish to commit the offence as they had knowledge about the huge quantity of jewellery and cash in Saravanan's house.
Mineral expert parked money in Swiss banks
By Gokul Vannan
CHENNAI, April 17 -- More skeletons are tumbling out of the cupboard of the 74-year-old mineral expert, S Saravanan, who was killed in November, 2008, at his house in KK Nagar, along with his wife and house maid, as the Chennai police dig deep into his past as part of the investigations.
“He led such a debauched life that anyone could have killed him,” said a senior police officer, referring to Saravanan's secret life, which was camouflaged by his open display of religiousity.
In fact, relatives looked up to Saravanan as he enjoyed a godfather like status in the extended family. He was seen as an extremely god fearing man, who visited temples regularly and spend enough time with family members, guiding the younger generation on how to face challenges in the world.
The grieving family members, who gathered at his house on November 20, 2008, when he was killed, were heard saying: “He was seen as Lord Murugan by us. What will we do without him?”
But police investigations have unearthed details that could shatter his image as he had led a dual life.
“Saravanan had four accounts in Swiss banks, which even his family members, were not aware of. He had deposited most of the money earned through foreign dealings in the Swiss banks. He had drawn money from the banks during his visits aboard and brought them into India through hawala,” a highly placed police said.
Contrary to popular perception that he earned all his money by offering consultancy services to foreign firms, he earned a considerable amount of money through illegal dealings, the police claimed.
When Saravanan was the chief of the Tamil Nadu Minerals Limited, he had sold granites below the market price and got a cut from buyers and deposited the money in secret accounts abroad. Since he had no children, none of his relatives had any clue about his wealth and clandestine operations, the police said.
Though Saravanan had projected himself as spiritual man devoted to his wife Kasthuri, who lost her vision partially in the later stages of life, he had been lavishly spending money on women till his death.
That part of his personal life had remained a total secret and would not have come out but for the intensive probe that had to be taken up by the police to crack the case, a police officer said.
Chief Minister M Karunanidhi, who had suspended Dr Saravanan in 1989 on the basis of reports from Letika Saran and the findings of the Madras High Court, was quoted praising the arrest of the ‘killers of Dr Saravanan’ thus:
Excerpts from a report filed by activist journalist Sathyalaya Ramakrishnan for the Asian Tribune published December 23 2010.
TN Police ensured peace in the state: CM Karunanidhi claims
Sathyalaya Ramakrishnan reporting from Chennai
Chennai, 23 December, (Asiantribune.com):
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi has proudly said that the police ensured peace and safety to the common men in the state for the past four and half years.
“The crime rate in the State has come down because of their effective functioning,” he said, and listed out some of the important cases resolved quickly by the police.
The [solved] cases include the murder of former chairman of TAMIN Saravanan.
DGP Letika Saran, Chennai City Police Commissioner T. Rajendran, Fire and Rescue Services Director R. Nataraj were among those who participated
Letika endorsed the solving of Dr Saravanan’s murder by Commissioner of Police Rajendran with the arrest of 4 petty thieves upon recovery of ‘stolen jewels and cash’ [something clearly absent during preliminary investigations by the police and despite her own report made earlier] and the accused were even quickly convicted!
Friends will undoubtedly ask me whether I have not betrayed someone’s trust and broken my promise to Frank.
Well, the answer on both the counts, the answer is NO!
I am not saying who and I am not giving out the name of the person. So, I have not betrayed the trust.
I have kept my promise to bury the evidence, if it came to the crunch.
It cannot be retrieved at all.
Can the Government of India or Government of Tamil Nadu prosecute me for having destroyed vital evidence?
I would like them to do that.
Then I will end up revealing other details of what the man who I have identified as Franco told me … about things that happened and continue to happen in Italy in open court!
And there are these little punch-lines to end this long story.
So my former friend Kalaignar Karunanidhi made money through one of his sons vide the granite trade after all, eh?
Significantly, Saravanan lived and was murdered in Kalaignar Karunanidhi Nagar!
According to forensic experts, first the maid Anbarasi, then Kasthuri and finally Dr Saravanan were killed.
I have no way of knowing whether the trio was tortured before the murder.
Psychological experts tell me that seeing his ‘girlfriend’ Anbarasi and wife Kasthuri die painfully would have been torture enough for Saravanan.
Obviously, he had parted with the bank passwords and details to those who killed him so that they could walk away with the money from wherever. In these days of the internet transferring the data would have taken only a few minutes or better still, the thing could have been done through the internet itself!
Rajendran, IPS, is Additional Director General of Police, Tamil Nadu Human Rights Commission.
Rajendran had threatened me with arrest when I complained to him about the corruption of his subordinates.
I have one little question to the Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram and the Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde:
If you guys are really against corruption, when are you going to order the suspension of Rajendran and start the prosecution of Letika Saran please?
And the one final question to my friend, the current DGP – K Ramanujam.
How about ordering suspensions and enquiries against all those who handled the case of Dr Saravanan while Rajendran was CoP please?