A Web Of Shell Companies Ties VK Sasikala To A Controversial Mining Baron
As VK Sasikala escalates a bid to become Tamil Nadu’s Chief Minister, public unease against her possible ascension is rising – in part fuelled by her business interests and that of her family.
New findings by NDTV show further proof of worrisome financial dealings, specifically how a web of shell companies links Ms Sasikala to a controversial mining baron.
In 2002, Ms Sasikala’s nephews, VS Sivakumar and Karthikeyan Kaliaperumal entered into a partnership with S Vaikundarajan, to form the company A World Rock Pvt Ltd.
S Vaikundarajan is the owner of V.V. Minerals, a company with 75 per cent stake in Tamil Nadu’s estimated Rs. 76,500 crore beach sand mining business.
But V.V. Mineral’s business practices have repeatedly run afoul of the law. For example in August 2013, the Tuticorin district collector Ashish Kumar conducted raids on V.V. Minerals stating in his report that the company was involved in large-scale illegal mining. Mr Kumar was transferred soon after. Those allegations led to a ban on beach sand mining in the five districts of Tamil Nadu.
This did not stop V.V. Minerals from transporting large quantities of heavy minerals across the state. According to an investigation conducted by the Tirunelveli district committee, V.V. Minerals had illegally transported around 9.65 lakh tonne of heavy minerals in the two years following the ban.
Many have suspected that the company’s steady rise, despite questionable practises is because of political links.
One such link that ties the company to the politically influential Ms Sasikala family appears to be A World Rock.
A World Rock appears to have no business activity. Its revenue from operations for the past 15 years is zero; it also posted Rs. 7,500 in losses in their last annual return.
It is, however, part of a web of 12 companies, all bearing the same two directors, Ms Sasikala’s nephews – VS Sivakumar and Karthikeyan Kaliaperumal, and sharing the same address – Old No. 19&20/12, New No. 38/12, Venkatraman Street, T. Nagar, Chennai.
When NDTV visited the address, we found it was in an apartment in a residential complex, and that it had been inoperative for months.
Residents said that someone comes once a month to pay rent, to keep the lease alive.
Repeated queries sent to A World Rock, and to the remaining companies elicited no response.
Earlier this week, NDTV had found that Ms Sasikala personally has part or full ownership of companies that pose conflict of interest, including Midas Golden Distilleries that is a supplier to the state run liquor distributor, and to a multiplex.
It is unclear whether she had since resigned from those firms.
But the management of A World Rock is a pervasive example of how, even if she were to resign, her family’s business ties pose conflict of interest. Beach sand mining relies heavily on the government’s discretion.
Moreover, the nature of ownership – via shell companies – raises more serious questions of improprieties. Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently announced a drive to clean up such companies given their propensity to be used to launder money; Ms Sasikala’s family companies tick almost all those boxes.