CBI raids 40 locations in Chennai over gutkha scam; homes of Health Minister Vijayabaskar, DGP TK Rajendran searched
The gutkha scam came to light in 2017, after a raid at tobacco businessman Madhav Rao's properties in 2016 led to the recovery of a diary that allegedly contained a list of politicians and senior police officers to whom bribes had been paid.
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Wednesday launched a search operation across 40 locations in Chennai in connection with the 2017 gutkha scam. The homes of Tamil Nadu DGP TK Rajendran at Mogappair, ex-DGP S George near Maduravoyal, Health Minister C Vijayabaskar and other police officers are also being searched, ANI reported.
Special teams comprising officials of the agency’s Anti Corruption-III Unit from New Delhi commenced the simultaneous searches at 7 am. This is the first time the CBI is conducting searches on the residence of a DGP in the state, The Hindu reported.
The Madras High Court in April 2018 ordered the CBI to probe sale of chewing tobacco, which has been banned in Tamil Nadu since 2013. The central investigation body took over the case from the Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption (DVAC).
In June, the Enforcement Directorate registered a money laundering case under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act against unnamed government officials in the gutkha scam based on the first information report (FIR) registered by the CBI in May.
Despite the opposition from the Opposition parties, Rajendran was given a two-year extension in 2018.
The raids come a year after the scam came to light.
On 8 July, 2017, the state Income Tax Department conducted raids at the godown, offices and residences of a gutkha manufacturer in Tamil Nadu, who was facing charges of evading tax to the tune of Rs 250 crore. During the raids, the officials found a dairy which carried names of Vijayabaskar, among others, and spoke of his alleged involvement in taking bribes from the manufacturers. The company allegedly paid him and senior police officers Rs 40 crore, in order to continue selling gutkha in the state.
The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) had demanded a CBI probe into the issue, following which chief minister E Palaniswamy had said that the DVAC was enquiring into the matter. The DMK had also demanded the resignation of the health minister as well as the then police commissioner.
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