New Delhi: Directorate of Enforcement (ED) has arrested Villayutham, an alleged smuggling kingpin of endangered sea cucumbers in Tamil Nadu’s Rameswaram under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), the agency said on Friday.
According to the federal agency, the accused has been consistently indulged in the smuggling of sea cucumbers, a marine species protected under schedule 1 of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. Villayutham was produced before the Special Court for PMLA in Madurai which has granted ED custody for 8 days, the agency further said.
Sea cucumbers are crucial to the marine ecosystem as they consume decomposing organic matter and convert it into recyclable nutrients for other marine life.
ED had initiated a money laundering investigation on the basis of multiple FIRs registered by Tamil Nadu Police and Wildlife Authorities under various sections of the Wildlife Protection Act.
The ED also said that the PMLA investigation has revealed that Villayutham had been using the business entities floated by him over the years namely VVN Sea Foods, VV Agency, Hotel Raamajayam, VV Sea Shell Mart, VVI Dry Fish Process and Hotel Raamajayam Restaurant as a front for projecting the proceeds obtained from the illegal smuggling activities as legal business income.
‘He had deposited the proceeds of smuggling activities in the form of cash, amounting to multiple Crore, in the bank accounts maintained in the names of himself, his wife, his children and various business entities operated by them,’ ED said.
The federal agency also added that the proceeds of crime were utilised by Villayutham to repay loans amounting to multiple crore taken for various purposes including the loans availed in the names of his business entities, to purchase multiple movable and immovable properties including a hotel, to pay exorbitant fees for his childrens’ medical college education and to run his business entities.
Further investigation is under progress.