The CBI, on Thursday, arrested five persons in connection with the Tamil Nadu gutkha scam. Promoters of Jayam Industries AV Madhavrao, Uma Shankar Gupta and Srinivas Rao, Dr Senthil Murugan of the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) and NK Pandian, Superintendent in the Central Excise Department were the ones were arrested by the CBI officers. The accused have been remanded to judicial custody till September 20.
The arrests come a day after the investigating agency conducted extensive raids in around 35 locations -- including Chennai, Thoothukudi, Bengaluru, Mumbai and Guntur -- on Wednesday. Among those who were raided were the sitting TN Director General of Police (DGP) TK Rajendran, the ex-DGP S George, Health Minister C Vijayabasker, former Milk and Dairy Development Minister BV Ramanaa. The raids which began at 7.30 am on Wednesday lasted till evening.
Premises of the promoters of Jayam Industries -- Madhavrao, Uma Shankar Gupta and Srinivas Rao -- were also raided by the CBI on Wednesday. Jayam Industries was involved in the manufacture of gutkha before it was banned by the Government of Tamil Nadu in May 2013. Following the ban on gutkha, the company allegedly changed its name to Annamalai Industries and continued its business by bribing the concerned officials. Many officials from the sales tax department, FSSAI, police and the Department of Central Excise and Customs were accused of having received a bribe in the case.
In May, the Madras High Court transferred the case to CBI based on a plea filed by the DMK and an FIR was registered by the agency in the same month.
The issue came to limelight following Income Tax raids conducted on July 8, 2017 at the godown, offices and residences of a pan masala and gutkha manufacturer in Tamil Nadu, who was facing charges of evading tax to the tune of Rs 250 crore. This resulted in IT sleuths finding a diary.
The diary allegedly had the names of those who were believed to have been paid off by the gutkha manufacturers– and among them allegedly featured the state's health minister. Later, documents showed that an amount of Rs 40 crore was allegedly paid to the Minister and several officials as quid pro quo for facilitating the sale of banned gutkha in Chennai.