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In July 2022, the Tamil Nadu government accorded sanction to former Health Minister C. Vijayabaskar, former Commercial Taxes Minister B.V. Ramana, former DGPs T.K. Rajendran and S. George, and others

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has charged former Health Minister C. Vijayabaskar, former Commercial Taxes Minister B.V. Ramana, former Directors-General of Police T.K. Rajendran and S. George, and 17 others in the gutkha scam case

Sources in the agency confirmed that the Anti-Corruption Unit (III), New Delhi, filed the charge sheet in a special court for CBI cases in Chennai, in the third week of November. In the first charge sheet filed in 2018, the CBI had charged six accused, including three government officials.

In July 2022, the Tamil Nadu government accorded sanction to prosecute Dr. Vijayabaskar, Mr. Ramana and others. As regards the retired DGPs, who served as Commissioner of Police, Chennai, the matter was referred to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) as it was the competent authority to accord sanction for prosecution of retired IPS officers under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, the sources said.

After obtaining the Union Home Ministry’s sanction, the CBI filed the charge sheet against the accused persons who included officials of the Commercial Tax and Central Excise departments. The agency had taken over the investigation from the Tamil Nadu police and re-registered the case on May 29, 2018, on the directions of the Madras High Court.

The gutkha scam was first exposed by The Hinduin 2017. It relates to the alleged involvement of the former Ministers, former IPS officers and other officials in the Tamil Nadu police, Greater Chennai Corporation, Food Safety Department and Commercial Taxes wing, among others, in taking bribes to the tune of ₹39.91 crore for facilitating the storage, transportation and sale of gutkha in Chennai city.

The allegation is that the manufacturers of the MDM brand of gutkha had paid several crores of rupees as kickbacks to the former Ministers and officials serving in different Central and State government departments between 2014 and 2016 to ensure the manufacture, storage and sale of gutkha, a banned substance in Tamil Nadu since 2013.

Income Tax officials unearthed the scam while conducting a search on the premises of the Gutkha firm in July 2016. They discovered Book of Accounts, which suggested that ₹39.91 crore had been paid over two years to the accused.

 

Scam politically motivated: Vijayabaskar

Meanwhile, Dr. Vijayabaskar said the gutkha scam was a politically motivated issue.

Reacting to his name figuring in the chargesheet filed by the CBI, he said gutkha was banned during the AIADMK rule in 2013. “We banned gutkha in Amma’s [Jayalalithaa’s] regime. How can I, being the Health Minister, be accused of taking a bribe to allow the manufacture and sale of the banned product in the State?” he asked.

Dr. Vijayabaskar said his name did not figure in the First Information Report registered by the CBI or the Enforcement Directorate in the alleged scam. “The issue of gutkha never came under my purview when I was the Health Minister. I strongly deny the allegation that I took money,” he said.

“I will fight the case legally and come out clean,” Dr. Vijayabaskar said.

 
 

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