Chennai: Officials of the income-tax department and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Tuesday raided the premises of some business associates of Karthi Chidambaram, son of former finance minister P. Chidambaram.

The officials searched at least three premises, including one that belongs to an eye care chain, as part of a larger probe into suspected irregularities in Aircel Ltd’s 2006 sale to Maxis Communications Bhd, people familiar with the development said on condition of anonymity.

The senior Chidambaram denied that his son had any interest in any of the firms, and accused the government of a “malicious onslaught" against his family. “If the government wishes to target me, they should do so directly, not harass friends of my son who carry on their own businesses and have nothing to do with politics," he said in a statement.

“My family and I are quite prepared to face the malicious onslaught launched by the government," Chidambaram said.

The people cited earlier said the income-tax department conducted the searches because of suspected tax evasion. The ED, which investigates foreign exchange violations, joined the searches in connection with its probe of suspected money laundering in the Aircel-Maxis deal.

“The searches and surveys have been conducted as per the provisions of the Income-tax Act. These are consequential to the ongoing investigations. There is no collateral purpose behind such actions and no political person or his family member are today shareholders or directors of the companies searched or surveyed by the Income Tax Department," the income-tax department said in a statement.

In August, the ED summoned two directors of a firm linked to Karthi Chidambaram in connection with the probe. The people familiar with the development cited earlier said the summons were sent to Advantage Strategic Consulting after the agency found that 26 lakh has been sent from the firm to Aircel Televentures. P. Chidambaram, then finance minister, approved the Maxis investment in Aircel on 7 March, 2006, said a report on Tuesday by The Times of India.

The Aircel-Maxis case is tied to allegations that then telecom minister Dayanidhi Maran forced Aircel owner C. Sivasankaran to transfer his ownership to Maxis in 2006. The Malaysian company invested in Sivasakaran Maran’s brother Kalanithi Maran’s Sun Direct, the direct-to-home TV arm of his Sun TV Network Ltd.

“We have made it clear, repeatedly, that no member of my family has any equity or economic interest in any of the firms that are being targeted," P. Chidambaram said in his statement. “They are companies that are professionally managed and are capable of answering any questions that may be put to them by the authorities. I condemn the attempt to link them to my son and harass them on that ground."

Chidambaram alleged that the agenda of the government is being implemented by an ED officer who has a pending dispute with the finance ministry’s department of revenue.

“Orders in his case were apparently passed during the term of my predecessor. He met me and wanted me to intervene in his favour. I declined and I told him that I cannot reverse orders that were issued during the term of my predecessor. The change of government has given him an opportunity to misuse his powers to harass my son and his friends," he said.

Close