Thiruvananthapuram: Police and income tax authorities in Kerala have seized Rs 18.5 crore in cash and booked 32 people for possessing unaccounted money ever since assembly elections were announced in the state.
Kerala will elect 140 members to the legislative assembly on May 16. The election announcement came in the first week of March.
Police said the source of the unaccounted money could be the Middle East.
"We are on the job of finding the source. We suspect this could have come from the Middle East and also from neighbouring states," Deputy Inspector General of Police P. Vijayan, who is heading the investigation, told IANS.
"During our investigation, those who are able to provide a satisfactory explanation about the money they have in their possession, we leave them. Only those who are unable to provide the details are being proceeded against legally," he said.
Official sources said that over the years, the biggest source of hawala money has been the Middle East, and all those who send their money through this mode have agents both in Kerala and in the Middle East.
Anyone who wishes to transfer money through hawala from the Middle East hands over the money to an agent in the Gulf country.
After processing, the equivalent amount in Indian money is handed to the beneficiary in Kerala by agents and this is confirmed by a telephone call from the Middle East country to the recipient in Kerala.
On Monday, officials seized Rs 2.75 crore from two vehicles near Thrissur and took the people in the vehicles into custody.
Vijayan said most of the seizures took place in Malappuram and Palakkad, but this was seen in other districts also.
Asked about the cash seizures, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, who is campaigning in Kasargode, said he would comment only after knowing the facts.
With the poll campaign all set to reach its peak soon, police suspect that a good portion of the seized money might have come for the elections.