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Billions in US bonds found in raid

Mystery surrounds spectacular haul seized from small businessman

Billions in US bonds found in raid
TM Ramalingam reporter, Thiruvananthapuram

January 3, 2013

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A cache of US treasury bonds worth US$5 billion has been discovered at the home of a small-time businessman in Tamil Nadu, according to income tax authorities.

The taxmen raided the home of TM Ramalingam, a resident of Upputhurai village in Tirupur district of the state, on December 31 and seized the treasury bonds and bank deposit receipts amounting to US$2.9 million.

“The US bonds seem to be genuine and we have frozen his bank accounts. We have sent the seized bonds to the Financial Intelligence Unit in New Delhi to verify their authenticity,” said a senior tax official, speaking on the condition of anonymity. 

He said that it is a mystery how the small-time businessman could have invested huge amounts of money in US treasury bonds.

Indian law prohibits residents from investing more than US$200,000 per financial year in foreign currency assets. 

Ramalingam’s passport revealed he has traveled to Brazil a dozen times, and he reportedly told officials the bonds were given to him by a Brazilian friend.

The expiry dates on the bonds are in 2014 and 2015, and they include the name and address of Ramalingam, a financial broker. 

Ramalingam brought attention to himself after submitting a business proposal to set up a multi-million dollar oil refinery with a foreign investor in Thondi, a port town in the Ramanathapuram district of Tamil Nadu.

Palaniswami Sudevan, a local journalist, told that the news shocked the village.

“He has only a one-story building and one car. His neighbors told me that he has a moderate living and often travels by bus. We never knew that he was a multi-billionaire,” said Sudevan.

But many brokers in the financial market knew him as a potential investor for the last seven years.

“We don’t know his source of income. But he had a large amount of money at his disposal,” said Mayilvahanan, a local broker based in Tirupur.

When contacted by telephone, Ramalingam confirmed that his house had been raided by tax officials.

“I can’t disclose anything to you at this stage, as the investigation is ongoing,” he said. 

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