The gutkha scam in Tamil Nadu

CBI grills gutkha manufacturer

The sale of gutkha is banned in Tamil Nadu.   | Photo Credit: G_P_Sampath Kumar

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Wednesday commenced interrogation of suspects in the sensational gutkha scam. A special team comprising officials from the CBI’s Anti-Corruption (III) Unit, New Delhi, examined the manufacturer of the MDM brand of gutkha and others at an undisclosed location in the city, sources in the agency said.

“The CBI has done enough ground work before calling the suspects for interrogation. Questionnaires are being given to those summoned for questioning. If need be, the agency can summon the suspects to New Delhi as was done in other cases in the past,” a senior police officer said.

Besides statements of suspects and witnesses, the agency is relying on the books of accounts and other documents seized from the office and residential premises of the gutkha manufacturer and his employees, which point to payment of bribes to top officials.

 

The sale of gutkha is banned in Tamil Nadu. The owner of the MDM brand of gutkha had, however, given a statement allegedly admitting to sales of the contraband between November 2014 and June 2016 to the tune of ₹384.38 crore.

After registering a case in May this year, following an order of the Madras High Court, which was later upheld by the Supreme Court when challenged, the CBI wrote to the Income Tax Department, Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption and other agencies seeking documents relating to the case.

Though the usual practice of the central agency is to adopt the First Information Report of the State, in this case the CBI chose to register a fresh case against “unknown officials” of the Central Excise Department, Government of Tamil Nadu, Food Safety Department, public servants and private persons under Section 120B (Criminal Conspiracy) of the IPC and also invoked provisions under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.

The gutkha scam, exposed by The Hindu in June 2017, pertains to the alleged involvement of State Health Minister C. Vijaya Baskar and DGP-rank officers T.K. Rajendran and S. George, among others, in taking bribes to the tune of ₹39.91 crore for facilitating the storage, transportation and sale of the banned commodity in the city. Though DVAC registered a case in September 2017, it could not file the chargesheet within the stipulated six months. The case was later transferred to the CBI by the Madras High Court while disposing of a petition filed by DMK MLA J. Anbazhagan.


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Printable version | Nov 27, 2021 4:44:57 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/cbi-grills-gutkha-manufacturer/article24813959.ece

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