District administration officials seized in the small hours of Tuesday ? 16 lakh worth tea consignment meant for export after a few members of the public in Athupalam alleged that the lorry carrying the consignment was smuggling cash meant for bribing voters.
The officials released the consignment on Tuesday afternoon even as the Coimbatore City Police personnel arrested two persons, whom they said were members of the Makkal Needhi Maiam.
The trouble began after 10 p.m. Monday when Podanur residents N. Mohammad Sajith (41) and S. Feroz Khan (22) intercepted a container lorry heading towards Kochi. Alleging that the lorry driver V.S. Prakash smuggled cash meant for bribing, they raised a hue and cry resulting in people gathering in large numbers, said a release from the Coimbatore City Police.
A few among those who gathered damaged a rear-view mirror of the lorry, pulled out the driver and thrashed him, even though the driver told them that he was taking tea from the warehouse of an export company in Vellakinaru Pirivu to the Cochin Port Trust.
As news spread, the Kuniamuthur Police reached the spot. They took the driver to safety and after three hours drove the vehicle to the Coimbatore Collectorate. By then election officials had also reached the spot.
On Tuesday morning, District Election Officer and Collector K. Rajamani inspected the consignment at the Collectorate in the presence of Election Commission of India observers, GST and Income Tax officials and later told journalists that he was satisfied that the consignment had tea.
“Now that the administration is satisfied, it has asked the GST and Income Tax officials if the papers that the driver had were as per rules. And, if they are satisfied it will release the consignment.”
The owner of the company that had sent the shipment, Hemen Shah of Shah Brothers, said that the officials released the consignment by 2 p.m. and the GST and Income Tax officials had asked for some papers which he would provide in a day or two.
The Coimbatore City Police had charged MNM workers Sajith and Khan with wrongful restraint, rioting, rioting with deadly weapons, indulging in public mischief and criminally intimidating the driver and also damaging the lorry.
The police appealed to people not to spread rumours.
Mr. Shah said the rumour spread by the two had resulted in huge loss as the container seized was among three lorries his company had sent to the Port.
Though the other two lorries reached the port, the tea could not be shipped to Spain because of the seizure of one container.
Meanwhile, the Kuniamuthur police have filed a case against a person behind a Facebook profile named ‘Kovai Thalapathi’ on Tuesday for publishing a post linking the seizure of a container lorry in Ukkadam with Minister S.P. Velumani. In a press release, the police said that the case has been filed based on a complaint from AIADMK's Information Technology wing. The complaint said that the Facebook post tried to defame Mr. Velumani even after it was established that the container had tea.
Source :- Thehindu.com