Gutka Scam: CBI conducts searches across India

New Delhi: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Wednesday conducted searches in several locations across the country.

A total of 35 locations were raided by the investigation agency. The raids were carried out in Chennai, Tiruvallur, Thoothukudi, Puducherry, Bengaluru, Mumbai and Guntur.

The places searched are residential premises of the promoters/directors of a company and other public servants including officials of Sales Tax Department, Customs & Central Excise, Food Safety & Drug Administration Department and jurisdictional police officials.

The CBI had registered the case on the orders of the Madras High Court dated April 26. The High Court had directed the agency to conduct investigation into all aspects of the offence of alleged illegal manufacture, import, supply, distribution and sale of gutka and other forms of chewable tobacco which are banned in Tamil Nadu and the Union Territory of Puducherry.

It was alleged that one private company based in Tamil Nadu was in the business of manufacturing and sale of gutka and other chewable tobacco products since 2011.

Subsequently, production and sale of gutka was banned in May 2013. During the period when the ban was in force, the promoters/directors of the said company allegedly paid bribes to regulatory authorities and continued with the business of manufacturing and selling of gutka products illicitly.

The CBI today also launched a massive search operation in 40 places in Chennai, including the house of Tamil Nadu Health Minister C Vijayabaskar, in connection with the scam.

The scam surfaced in July 2016 when the Income Tax (IT) department raided various properties of a Gutkha manufacturer, who was accused of evading taxes of Rs 250 crore.