In a massive embarrassment to the Tamil Nadu government today, the Central Bureau of Investigations (CBI) officials have raided the premises of the current health minister C Vijaybhaskar, current DGP TK Rajendran, DG (Fire and Rescue) S George and several other top officials and politicians in connections to the Gutka Scam. According to reports, the CBI has today raided 31 locations in total.
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The premises of former minister BV Ramana and that of several officials of the central excise, food safety and health department have also been raided. While the CBI stated that simultaneous raids have been going on since 7 in the morning in Chennai, Mumbai and Bengaluru, it was reported that the search operations are being conducted by the CBI’s special anti-corruption unit-III from Delhi.
Here is everything about the scam that had come to light in July 2017:
- The Gutka scam was unearthed for the first time when income tax officials raided the godown, offices and the residence of prominent tobacco products manufacturer MDM in connection with an alleged 250 crores tax evasion case.
- During the raid, tax officials had allegedly found documents and entries that had listed bribes and incentives paid to the ministers, several top police officers and government officials over a period of 2 years. The amount mentioned was total of about Rs 40 crores.
- The manufacture, storage and sale of tobacco products including Gutka and pan masala has been banned in Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry since 2013. The papers found at the premises of the manufacturers showed that the bribe amount was being paid to the politicians and officials to facilitate the illegal tobacco trade in the state.
- The I-T department had compiled and analysed the documents found and reportedly sent a confidential report about the illegal trade, bribes and persons involved in the illegal trade to the chief secretary and DGP of the state. Though the then chief secretary had confirmed that he had sent the report to the then CM J Jayalalitha, no action was reportedly taken over the allegations.
- The TN government had maintained that they had received no such report, but a subsequent I-T raid at the residence of Jayalalitha a copy of the report was found and the state vigilance department registered a case over the issue against several government officials. By then opposition leaders and media had been demanding a CBI probe into the issue and subsequently the case was handed over to the CBI by the orders of Madras High court in April this year.
- In May, the CBI had registered an FIR against several persons in the case, including unidentified officials of the health, food safety and central excise department.
- One of the accused in the case, a senior official from the health department had moved to the Supreme Court against the Chennai HC’s decision to pass the case to the CBI. However, the SC had upheld the order of the Madras HC last week.
- Despite the ban being effective from 2013, the owner of MDM had allegedly admitted to illegally selling Gutka in the state to the tunes of Rs 384 crores between 2014 and 2016.
The Gutka scam has been an issue of massive political debates and has given rise to several lacunae and corrupt practices within government departments.