Chennai, Jan 4 (IANS) Income Tax (IT) department officials here Friday questioned businessman T.M. Ramalingam for possessing $5 billion worth of international bills of exchange seized during a raid at his residence Dec 31, a senior official said.
Speaking to IANS on the condition of anonymity, the official said: "We will come to know about the genuineness of the seized bills of exchange which Ramalingam says he got in exchange for gold bonds."
Ramalingam told IT officials that he got the bonds in exchange for gold bonds from a Brazilian.
Ramalingam had told IANS that the transaction was genuine.
The IT official said the department has got in touch with the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), State Bank of India (SBI) and others to unravel the bonds.
He said the tax department is also probing whether Ramalingam is fronting for someone and whether he belongs to any political party.
The IT department has seized fixed deposit worth Rs.1.83 crore held in the names of Ramalingam and his son with the State Bank of India and Karur Vysya Bank.
According to the official, the government has contacted the US government and in a week's time the genuineness of the bills will be known.
"Ramalingam will be allowed to go today and will be called for questioning later. Officials from the CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) came to our office today (Friday) on our request. However, they are not taking up the investigation now. The CBI officials were not present during the questioning session," the official said.
The issue came to IT department's notice when Ramalingam tried to get a certificate from a foreign bank to exchange the bills.
"The foreign bank has denied it had any role in tipping off the investigating agencies," he said.
According to him, if the bills are genuine, then the tax department will look deeper into Ramalingam's source of income for acquiring such high value bills of exchange.
"If the bills of exchange are not genuine, then the issue of forgery would kick in based on the circumstances. Other investigating agencies will take up the matter from there," he said.
Ramalingam said the bills, which are worth over Rs.28,000 crore, are in his name and are current.
Contrary to his earlier stance that his bad health would not enable him to travel to Chennai from Tirupur district, Ramalingam presented himself at the IT office here Friday morning. He was accompanied by his lawyers.
However, IT officials kept Ramalingam's lawyers out while questioning him.
Ramalingam said the IT officials may have come to his house regarding his application to set up a petroleum refinery in Thondi in Ramanathapuram district in Tamil Nadu at a cost of Rs.1,000 crore or his recent purchase of a new car.
A government official told IANS that they did not know about Ramalingam's proposed petroleum refinery project.
Thondi is an ancient port city around 500 km from Chennai.
Ramalingam has formed a company called Bharaneedharan Oil Refinery for the refinery project.
Ramalingam has not filed his IT returns for the past four years.