Arappor’s convenor argued that the case falls under the purview of CBI asked it to immediately file an FIR.

Gutkha scam Chennai-based NGO Arappor Iyakkam writes to CBI asks for FIR immediatelyRepresentational image: ShaluSharmaBihar via Flickr
news Corruption Friday, July 07, 2017 - 20:00

Chennai-based rights and advocacy group, Arappor Iyakkam, on Friday wrote to the Central Bureau of Investigations asking the agency to investigate Tamil Nadu’s Gutkha Scam.

Read| Explained: The who, what and how of the Gutka scam shaking-up Tamil Nadu

On the same day, officials of the Income Tax department wrote to  Directorate General of Vigilance, Customs & Central Excise, Ministry of Finance over the purported bribes given to central excise officials by gutkha manufacturers, reported The Hindu.

In a letter addressed to CBI’s Superintendent of Police, Anti Corruption Bureau in Chennai, Arappor’s convenor Jayaram Venkatesan argued that the case falls under the purview of the agency, as both officials of the state and central governments are alleged to have received a bribe and asked it to immediately file an FIR.   

Venkatesan further argues that the investigations which are currently held by the former Chennai Commissioner of Police, who also heads the Department of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption, is himself a party to the case. It has been alleged that he too had received bribes to the tune of Rs 15 lakh from MDM Gutkhas.

Venkatesan also alleged corruption on part of the state and the central officials including police and health departments.

Moreover, Venkatesan asked how the state authorities could investigate the scam when its Health Minister C Vijayabaskar is also alleged to have received bribes to the tune of Rs 56 lakh.

The scam was unearthed by Income Tax officials while they were raiding godown, offices and residences of a pan masala and gutka manufacturer in Tamil Nadu, who was facing charges of evading tax to the tune of Rs 250 crore.

It was only during this raid, that a diary containing names of those who were believed to have been paid off by the gutka manufacturers was recovered. One of the names mentioned in the diary was that of the state's health minister.

The manufacture, storage and sale of the carcinogenic chewable forms of tobacco, including gutka and pan masala was banned by the state government in 2013.

Subsequent investigations and media expose revealed that a total amount in the tune of Rs 40 crore was paid to the minister and state, central officials including senior policemen of DGP and Commissioner rank to facilitate the sale of the banned article in the state.

In his letter, Venkatesan further alleged diversionary tactics employed by former Chennai Police Commissioner George in order to avoid a CBI probe over his demand for an independent probe made in December 2016.