The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has written to the Tamil Nadu government seeking sanction to prosecute 12 accused persons, including two former State Ministers and retired officers in the rank of Director-General of Police, in the sensational gutkha scam.
Highly placed sources in the State government told The Hindu on Tuesday that the CBI’s Anti-Corruption (III) Unit, New Delhi, which investigated the case, has sought sanction to prosecute former Health Minister C. Vijayabaskar, former Commercial Taxes Minister B.V. Ramana, both of the AIADMK, former Directors-General of Police T.K. Rajendran and S. George, who had served as the Commissioners of Police, Chennai, during different periods, and other officials.
The State would refer the proposal to the Union government with its recommendations. A senior official said sanction was required to prosecute even former Minsters and retired officers of the Indian Police Service. as per the procedures.
The scam, exposed by The Hindu in June 2017, pertains to the alleged involvement of the former Ministers, former IPS officers and officials of the Tamil Nadu police, the Greater Chennai Corporation, Food Safety Department and the Commercial Taxes Wing in taking bribes to the tune of ₹39.91 crore for facilitating the storage, transport and sale of the banned commodity in Chennai city.
The scam was unearthed by the Income Tax Department while searching the Chennai premises of the manufacturer of MDM brand of Gutkha.
It found a book of accounts which suggested that ₹39.91 crore was paid over two years to the former Ministers, former police officers and other officials to facilitate illegal trade in tobacco products.
The Income Tax Department sent a confidential report to the Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary and the Director General of Police, with details of the beneficiaries, but the government took no action.
Though former Chief Secretary P.S. Rama Mohana Rao confirmed that he had sent the report to the then Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, there was nothing on record to suggest the movement of the file or action taken. The confidential report was later found at Veda Nilayam, residence of late Jayalalithaa, during another income tax raid in November 2017.
The CBI filed the first charge sheet in November 2018 against six persons, including three officials. The second charge sheet is expected to be filed after sanction of prosecution is obtained against the other accused, the sources said.
Besides the CBI, the Enforcement Directorate registered a case in the gutkha scam and provisionally attached assets worth ₹246 crore belonging to some accused persons.