The CBI on Wednesday conducted raids at 40 locations in Tamil Nadu in connection with the multi-crore gutka scam in which involvement of state Health Minister C. Vijayabaskar and Director General of Police TK Rajendran is suspected.
"Separate CBI teams conducted simultaneous raids at 40 locations in Tamil Nadu early in the morning in Gutka scam. The raid is still on," Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) spokesperson Abhishek Dayal said around 11 am. Officals said the searches are spread across the state but did not reveal exact locations at this stage, saying it may hamper the ongoing operations.
The manufacture, storage and sale of the chewable forms of tobacco, including gutka and pan masala were banned by the Tamil Nadu government in 2013
CBI officials in Chennai said the raids were at 30 places, officials in New Delhi put the number at 40.
The raids were conducted at the godowns, offices and residences of pan masala and gutka manufacturers in Tamil Nadu.
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 under charges of criminal conspiracy of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act following the direction of the Madras High Court on April 26.
The agency has been investigating into all aspects of the offence of illegal manufacture, import, supply, distribution and sale of gutka and other forms of chewable tobacco which are banned in Tamil Nadu and Union Territory of Puducherry, including detection of and action against those involved in the offence whether directly or indirectly by aiding or abetting the offence or interfering with attempts to curb the offence.
During the raids, the department had seized a diary containing names of those who had been allegedly paid by the gutka manufacturers. The case was sent to the CBI by the Madras High Court in April 2018 on the plea of a DMK leader. The agency had registered an FIR against unidentified officials of the Tamil Nadu government, Central Excise Department and the Food Safety Department in May.
The scam came to light on July 8, 2017 after Income-Tax officers raided a pan masala and gutka manufacturer in Tamil Nadu, who has been facing charges of evading tax to the tune of Rs 250 crore.
The manufacture, storage and sale of the chewable forms of tobacco, including gutka and pan masala were banned by the Tamil Nadu government in 2013.
With inputs from agencies