CBI arrests 5 in gutkha scam

CBI arrests 5 in gutkha scam

A view of Director General of Police T K Rajendran's residence, where CBI conducted a search in connection with the Gutkha scam, in Chennai. (PTI File Photo)

Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Thursday arrested three gutkha manufacturers and two government officials for their alleged role in the multi-crore gutkha scam involving top politicians and senior police officials of Tamil Nadu.

A V Madhava Rao, Uma Shankar Gupta and Srinivasa Rao, owner and directors of MDM gutkha company respectively, Food Safety and Drug Administration department official P Senthil Murugan and Superintendent of Central Excise department N K Pandian were arrested and produced before a CBI court which sent them to judicial custody till September 20.

This is the first round of arrests in the high-profile case allegedly involving Tamil Nadu Health Minister C Vijayabhaskar, Director General of Police T K Rajendran and former Chennai Police Commissioner S George and other officials from various state and central government departments.

The gutkha scam relates to bribes to the tune of Rs 40 crore paid allegedly to Vijayabhaskar, Rajendran and George to allow illegal sale of gutkha in the state from 2013, when the ban on such products came into force, to 2016. Arrest of Rao and his associates is significant since it is the entries in Rao's diary, which was recovered during an Income Tax raid in 2016 on his premises, which is the crucial evidence in the case.

The arrests followed massive raids at 35 locations in Tamil Nadu, including the residences of Vijayabhaskar, Rajendran and George, and other states for the past two days. The raids came as yet another embarrassment to the Edappadi K Palaniswami-led government which is battling crisis after crisis.

Ironic twist

Ironically, it was George who had written to the government in December 2016 seeking a probe into illegal sale of gutkha that led to the DVAC registering a case against junior officers of the government. However, the issue attained enormous significance after reports emerged that the I-T department had asked the then Chief Secretary P Ramamohana Rao to order an inquiry into allegations that politicians and senior officials received huge amounts of money as bribe for allowing illegal sale of gutkha.

The letter, which was forwarded by Rao to the then chief minister, was recovered from a room occupied by jailed AIADMK leader V K Sasikala in the Poes Garden residence of Jayalalithaa during raids in November 2017.

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