Gutkha scam: CBI raids 40 places in TN (Lead)

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New Delhi/Chennai : 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 T.K. Rajendran is suspected.

"Separate CBI teams conducted simultaneous raids at 40 locations in Tamil Nadu early in the morning in Gutkha scam. The raid is still on," Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) spokesperson Abhishek Dayal told IANS at around 11 am.

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 gutkha 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 gutkha 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.

The scam came to light on July 8, 2017 after Income-Tax officers raided a pan masala and gutkha 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 gutkha and pan masala were banned by the Tamil Nadu government in 2013.