The CBI on Wednesday raided premises associated with several top ministers, police officers and revenue officials–including the sitting health minister and state DGP– in Tamil Nadu and other places in connection with the Gutkha scam.
The agency raided 35 locations across Chennai, Thiruvallur, Tuticorin, Guntur (Andhra Pradesh), Mumbai and Bangalore, which included premises of Tamil Nadu Health Minister C Vijay Bhaskar, Tamil Nadu DGP TK Rajendran, Former Chennai Police Commissioner S George, former state minister BV Ramana and several other top officials of the Central excise department, food safety department and health department in connection with the Gutkha Scam. Read the story in Tamil
“The simultaneous searches being conducted at 35 locations have begun at 7 am and will continue late in the evening. Apart from ministers and police officers, premises of some IRS officers, central Excise officers and sales tax officers are also being searched. Voluminous documents have been seized from all these places and will be examined in due course,” a CBI official said.
The CBI is probing an alleged Gutkha scam where top ministers, police officers and revenue officials are alleged to have taken bribes to allow manufacture and sale of banned Gutkha in the state. The CBI had taken over investigation in the gutkha scam on the orders of Madras High Court in May this year.
CBI sources said that those searched also include ACP M Manan and Inspector Sampath Kumar of Tamil Nadu police; 1992 batch IRS officer R Gulzar Begum, Superintendents NK Pandian and Sheshadry of the Central Excise Department ; Deputy Commissioner Kurinjiselvam, Assistant Commissioner Paneerselvam and sales tax officer Gnesan of the Sales Tax Department; and Dr Senthil Murugan, Dr Laxmi Narayan and E Sivakumar, food safety officer, of the FSSAI. Others raided included promoters of Jayam Industries (now known as Annamalai Industries) AV Madhavrao, Srinivas Rao and Uma Shankar Gupta.
According to CBI, Jayam Industries had been engaged in. manufacturing of paan masala and Gutkha since 2011. However, sale was Gutkha was banned in 2013 in Tamil Nadu. Jayam Industries allegedly assumed a new name and kept operating by bribing officials. “During the ban promoters directors of Jayam industries paid bribes to regulatory authorities and continued business. They allegedly paid bribes to officials of sales tax department, customs and central excise, FSSAI and jurisdiction police officials,” CBI spokesperson Abhishek Dayal said.
The agency has registered the FIR against unidentified officials of Tamil Nadu government, Central Excise department and food safety department.
“The clandestine gutkha business is a crime against society, which is needed to be curbed,” a bench comprising Chief Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice Abdul Quddhose had said while issuing its directions on a plea by DMK MLA J Anbazhagan.
“We, therefore, deem it appropriate to direct the CBI to investigate the illegal manufacture, import, supply, distribution and sale of gutkha and other forms of chewable tobacco… detect and take action against those involved in the offence… in connivance with public/government servants,” the bench said.
The scam came to light on July 8, 2017, when Income-Tax sleuths raided the godown, offices and residences of a pan masala and gutkha manufacturer in Tamil Nadu, who had been facing charges of tax evasion to the tune of Rs 250 crore.
The manufacture, storage and sale of the chewable forms of tobacco, including gutkha and pan masala were banned by the Tamil Nadu government in 2013.
During the raids, the department had seized a diary containing names of those, who had been allegedly paid by the gutkha manufacturers.
The DMK had sought appointment of a special investigation team, (SIT) headed by a retired judge of the high court and comprising CBI officials, to inquire into the matter.