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Kodanad Estate Controversy: Facts, Twists and Ghost Tales

Kodanad Estate Break-In and Burglary - A new documentary by Samuel Mathews has put Sasikala and EPS in spotlight.

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The 904-acre tea estate and bungalow in Kodanad, which was Jayalalithaa’s ‘summer secretariat’, is now in the eye of the storm over a burglary and the death of a security guard. Samuel Mathew, a senior journalist formerly with Tehelka, interviewed two of the five accused (Sayan and Manoj), who claim that Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswamy was involved in the murder.

Sayan and Manoj were apprehended in Delhi and have now been shifted to Chennai for further questioning.

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The Video that Put Kodanad in News Again

Samuel Mathew put out this 16-minute investigative report where, for the first time, he interviewed the two accused of breaking into Jayalalithaa’s bungalow. Sayan and Manoj spoke in detail of how they planned and executed the ‘burglary’, how Sasikala’s former driver Kanakaraj headed the operation, and how Palaniswamy too was involved.

Samuel Mathew contends that the burglary of four watches and a crystal rhino was just a cover to retrieve sensitive paper/digital documents.
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The Five Deaths

A total of eleven people
were arrested in connection with the burglary at the Kodanad estate, which occurred on 23 April 2017. The entire operation has been shrouded in mystery and followed by mysterious deaths.

1. Om Bahadur: Security guard
Suffocated to death when the burglars wrapped a towel around his head to keep him quiet.

2. Kanakaraj: Sasikala’s former driver
A few days after the burglary, he died in a road accident when his car crashed into a lorry. He was brought dead to the hospital, where doctors said he had consumed alcohol. Sayan and Manoj claim he was the masterminded the plan.

3. Dinesh Kumar: CCTV Camera Operator
Allegedly committed suicide two months after the incident. Sayan and Manoj claim that all 28 CCTV cameras were switched off during the burglary.

4 and 5. Vinupriya and Neethu: Wife and Daughter of Sayan
A few hours after Kanakaraj’s accident in Attur, Sayan met with an accident in which his car rammed into a parked truck, instantly killing his wife and five-year-old daughter. Sayan survived with grievous injuries.
Post mortem reports revealed large slashes across Vinupriya and Neethu’s back. Police suspect it could be a case of murder and attempted suicide, where Sayan killed his wife and child and tried to kill himself by driving into a parked truck.

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Political Mileage for the DMK

Kodanad Estate Break-In and Burglary - A new documentary by Samuel Mathews has put Sasikala and EPS in spotlight.
DMK Chief MK Stalin.
(Photo: IANS)

In April 2017, after the murder and break-in, opposition leader MK Stalin (DMK) called for a CBI investigation into the matter. Now that the documentary has unearthed new facts in what was considered a ‘dead-end’ case, he has asked for an SIT probe, and has said the DMK would make representations to the President and the Governor.

The fact that all 28 CCTV cameras were switched off before the burglary hints at the involvement of someone higher in position and clout than Kanakaraj. Incidentally, Sayan alleges that Kanakaraj belongs to the same community and village as that of CM Palaniswamy.

Various senior members of the DMK and the opposition coalition have come out to the media, seeking a probe into the matter.

The Kodanad incident not only reinforces the prevailing anti-Sasikala sentiment, but will also tarnish Jayalalithaa’s reputation.  

After Deputy CM O Panneerselvam’s speech about ‘Amma’s spirit’ guiding him, at the memorial, stories about Jayalalithaa’s spirit committing the murders and not allowing Sasikala to enter her room at the residence in Poes Garden have also gone viral.

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Why Kodanad?

Kodanad (Kotagiri dist) is a booming tourist destination and prime real estate pick for the affluent.

The estate in question formerly belonged to a British family, currently survived by 60-year-old Peter Carl Edward Craig Jones. It was bought, through intimidation and force in 1994, for Rs 7.6 crore, a paltry sum for a 904-acre tea-estate.

This estate was one of the properties mentioned in the disproportionate assets case, along with a number of other companies supposedly acquired through similar means of arm-twisting.

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While Jayalalithaa was cleared of all charges and died a free woman, the break-in at Kodanad, the mysterious deaths that followed, and Jones’ statement to The Week, pointing to Sasikala as a land-grabber have all built up to allow the opposition to paint the AIADMK as a ‘corrupt party’.

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