'It was a professional relationship with Jayalalithaa.'
'Being a businessman, I have to be in touch with the ruling party.'
S Vaikundarajan, the influential businessman, was said to be close to the late Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa. He was imprisoned by the then Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam government apparently for that reason though he denies that is so.
During the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam rule, he was charged with attempting to bribe the Tuticorin port trust chairman.
32 godowns he owned were sealed recently by the Tuticorin collector. Vaikundarajan says he can account for every tonne of minerals with him.
He was also a major shareholder in Jaya TV; he sold his stake to V K Sasikala after Jayalalithaa was admitted to hospital last year.
Vaikundarajan also owns shares in Midas Distilleries, which Sasikala owns.
"I have shares in 220 companies," he says.
Vaikundarajan, who has been mining beach sand for 25 years, is India's largest exporter of garnets. For 21 years running.
Though many journalists have written about sand mining in Tamil Nadu, he sued one journalist for alleged defamation.
Vaikundarajan, below, spoke to Rediff.com's A Ganesh Nadar about mining and controversy.
Many reporters have written about sand mining. Why did you sue one journalist for alleged defamation?
There is a gang of people working against me. A retired ADGP (additional director general of police) and a few retired IAS officers are working to trouble me.
I have video evidence of this journalist meeting the ADGP.
Someone told them I have this video. So now they are saying their life is in danger.
I have mined 92 lakh (9.2 million) tonnes of beach minerals in 10 years.
I have exported 67 lakh (6.7 million) tonnes; the rest are in my godowns. Everything is accounted for.
In 2008, the then DMK government stopped sand mining. Since then, I always stock minerals as I knew it could happen again.
Earlier, you never spoke to the media. Now you give interviews, What changed?
I never talked to the press because I was misquoted by some reporters.
I now speak to only those reporters whom I know and trust.
You are one of the biggest businessmen in the state, yet last year you were absconding from the police. Why?
That was a case involving the Tuticorin port trust chairman. His mother owned a 12 acre property near the Madurai airport.
I was planning a joint venture with a Japanese company. They told me the unit should be within one hour of an airport.
So, keeping the Madurai airport in mind, I wanted to buy that land.
When I came to know it was agricultural land, I knew it would be very difficult to change its status for commercial purposes.
I told them it would take years and I was not interested.
I bought the land with a written agreement which specified that they should change its status for me. I paid Rs 8 crore (Rs 80 million) through cheque.
They were supposed to change the classification in three years. They could not.
I sued them, cancelled the agreement and demanded my money back.
The case went for arbitration.
At that time his (the TPT chairman's) house was raided in another case.
They found this agreement at his home. They immediately filed an FIR against me and said I was absconding.
Why were you were arrested during the DMK regime?
When the government wants to harass you, they will file an FIR on some ground.
People say you were close to Jayalalithaa and that's why...
It was a professional relationship.
Being a businessman, I have to be in touch with the ruling party.
I have been in touch with both parties to get a licence.
Nothing else was there.
Why did you sell your shares in Jaya TV to Sasikala when Jayalalithaa was in hospital?
I didn't only have Jaya TV shares. I also have Sun TV shares, Raj TV shares and shares of other TV channels like NDTV. I have shares in 220 companies.
I am also a shareholder in Midas Distilleries. I am not a director of any company.
For me, shareholding is an investment.
I bought Jaya TV when the AIADMK was ruling. I sold it when I got a profit.
What's wrong in that?
Why was sand mining banned in Tamil Nadu?
It was not banned, it was stopped.
The government said they wanted to investigate the business.
They are doing it since 2013. They have been inspecting for four years now.
We have gone to court challenging them.
What is the future of sand mining in India?
I have no idea. That depends on government policy.
What about the people who were working for you after sand mining was stopped?
I had to send them home. What else could I do?
I gave them salary for two years. We retained only those who had worked for more than three years.
After that we retained only those who were working for more than five years.
The ones I could employ in my other industries I have employed them.
It was not possible to employ all of them.