Chennai: CBI officials from New Delhi on Wednesday searched the residences of several persons including Health and Family Welfare Minister C. Vijayabasker and Director General of Police (DGP) T.K. Rajendran in connection with a multi-crore gutkha scam.
“Separate CBI teams conducted simultaneous raids at 40 locations in Tamil Nadu early in the morning,” Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) spokesperson Abhishek Dayal told IANS in New Delhi.
This is the first time a serving DGP’s residence in Tamil Nadu has been raided by the CBI.
Included in the search list are former Tamil Nadu Minister B.V. Ramanaa and retired Chennai Police Commissioner S. George.
The CBI action prompted calls from M.K. Stalin, leader of the main opposition DMK, to Governor Banwarilal Purohit to sack Vijayabaskar and Rajendran if they do not resign on their own.
PMK founder S. Ramadoss also demanded the removal of Vijayabaskar and all other raided officials from their posts.
Ramadoss said Vijayabaskar’s residence and the other places were also raided by the Income Tax department.
The CBI in May-end had registered a case in the scam against unknown officials of Central Excise, Tamil Nadu government, Food Safety Department, public servants and private persons on charges of criminal conspiracy and for corruption following a direction of the Madras High Court on April 26.
The agency has been investigating all aspects of the offence of illegal manufacture, import, supply, distribution and sale of gutkha and other forms of chewable tobacco which are banned in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry.
In April 2018, the Madras High Court ordered the CBI to probe the multi-crore scam, alleging Vijayabaskar, Rajendran and several other top police and other central and state government officials were said to be alleged.
The court ordered the CBI probe on a petition filed by DMK legislator J. Anbazhagan.
“The probe seems to be proceeding on the right track under the CBI. Whether a case will be filed against the scamsters or not will have to be seen,” Anbazhagan told IANS. “If no case is filed, then we may have to approach the Madras High Court again.”
Several political parties had demanded a CBI probe into the issue but the AIADMK government did not agree.
In June 2018, the Enforcement Directorate registered a money laundering case against unnamed government officials in Tamil Nadu based on a first information report (FIR) registered by the CBI in May.
The case is related to an Income Tax Department raid in the offices, residences and godowns of a gutkha manufacturer Madhava Rao in Tamil Nadu in 2016 for evading about Rs 250 crore tax.
A diary was seized from Rao’s residence which listed alleged bribes paid to various officials amounting to about Rs 39.31 crore.
Stalin alleged that the AIADMK government had tried various measures to stall investigation into the scam.
The IT department had sent a report to the Tamil Nadu government about the alleged payoffs to various persons.
The state government claimed it did not receive any report from the IT department. But a copy of the letter sent to the state government by the IT department was seized from the room occupied by V.K. Sasikala in the late Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa’s residence in November 2017.
The Tamil Nadu government has banned the manufacture and storage of gutkha. However, the product was reportedly available in the market with the alleged connivance of police officers and others.
Despite objections from the opposition parties, Rajendran was given a two-year extension in 2018 by the AIADMK government.