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Gutkha scam: Ex-mins, DGPs in CBI supplementary charge sheet

The issue came to light in 2017 during raids against the company for tax evasion

CHENNAI: The CBI which recently filed a supplementary charge sheet in connection with the gutkha case, has named former AIADMK ministers BV Ramana and C Vijaya Baskar, former state DGP TK Rajendran, and former Chennai police commissioner George (both retired), after taking required sanction from the State government to prosecute the accused.

The charge sheet was filed before a special CBI court in Chennai. The case pertains to the illegal sale of gutkha which was banned in Tamil Nadu in 2013. The gutkha manufacturers AV Madhav Rao, Uma Shankar Gupta and Srinivas Rao continued selling MDM brand gutkha across TN even after its ban by allegedly influencing officials, politicians and regulatory authorities, the CBI said in its FIR. The scam came to light on July 8, 2017 when Income Tax sleuths raided the godown, offices and residences of the company, which had been facing charges of tax evasion to the tune of Rs 250 crore.

During the raids, the Income Tax department had seized a diary containing names of those who had been allegedly paid by the manufacturers. The case was sent to the CBI by the Madras High Court in April, 2018 on the plea of a DMK leader. Demanding a CBI probe, the petitioner alleged that monthly payments worth over Rs 14 lakh were made to then health minister C Vijaya Baskar and payments in lakhs of rupees were made to officials of Central excise, Food Safety and Sales Tax Department, senior police officers and politicians among others, in the State. This was challenged in the Supreme Court by a Tamil Nadu health official but the apex court sided with the Madras High Court order and asked the CBI to register a case. The agency had registered the FIR against unidentified officials of the Tamil Nadu government, Central Excise Department and the Food Safety Department.

The CBI started the probe in the first week of September, 2018 and raided the residence of then State DGP T K Rajendran and Health Minister C Vijay Baskar, besides the house of DGP S George, former Chennai police commissioner. The sleuths arrested 6 people including three government officials in connection with the Rs 40 crore scam, in which officials were alleged to have received bribe for allowing trade of banned tobacco products, including gutkha.

Investigation by ED under PMLA revealed that the three manufactures Madhava Rao, Srinivasa Rao, Tallam Uma Shankar Gupta who had associated themselves in illegal manufacture, sale and distribution of gutkha products in Tamil Nadu had effected a turnover of Rs 639.40 crore from May 2013 to June 2016.

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