The CBI on Thursday arrested four people, including one official each of Tamil Nadu Food Safety and Drug Administration and Central Excise Department, in connection with the alleged Gutkha scam. The agency on Wednesday raided residential premises of Tamil Nadu Health Minister C Vijayabaskar, DGP T K Rajendran and former Chennai Police Commissioner S George, among others, in connection with the case.
In the early hours of Thursday, the agency put under arrest promoters of Jayam Industries, A V Madhavrao and Uma Shankar Gupta, apart from food safety official Dr P Senthil Kumar and Central Excise Superintendent N K Pandian. All were questioned till late on Wednesday before being put under arrest, CBI sources said.
The premises of all the arrested accused were raided on Wednesday, with CBI officials searching 35 locations across Chennai, Thiruvallur, Tuticorin, Guntur, Mumbai and Bengaluru. It is alleged that ministers, police officers and revenue officials took bribes to allow the manufacture and sale of gutkha, which was banned in Tamil Nadu in 2013.
According to CBI, Jayam Industries was engaged in manufacture of paan masala and gutkha since 2011. When the state government banned gutkha in 2013, Jayam Industries allegedly took a new name as Annamalai Industries and kept operating by bribing officials.
The scam came to light on July 8, 2017, when Income Tax officials raided the premises of Jayam Industries, which had been facing charges of tax evasion to the tune of Rs 250 crore. During the raids, the tax department seized an accounts book containing the names of those who were allegedly paid off by the gutkha manufacturers.
According to a letter sent by Income Tax department to then DGP Ashok Kumar, Health Minister Madhavrao allegedly received monthly payments of Rs 14 lakh; councillors of Chennai Corporation received Rs 14 lakh per month; then police commissioner received Rs 6 lakh monthly “through Mr Rajendran”; and ACP of Red Hills region received Rs 10 lakh a month “through Mr Rajendran”, besides other officials.
The matters were then probed by the state vigilance department. The CBI took over the probe on the orders of Madras High Court in May this year following a plea filed by a DMK leader.