The Enforcement Directorate has filed a preliminary chargesheet against 31 persons, including B. V. Ramana, former State Minister of Commercial Tax and two police officers.
The ED said the prosecution complaint was filed in a sessions court in Chennai against S. Vignesh, proprietor, M/s Annamalai Industries and his associates who ran the illegal Gutkha business in Chennai, their family members/ relatives and others under the provisions of Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), 2002.
The chargesheet was also filed against seven public servants, including two officers from Tamil Nadu Police Department, two officers of Food Safety Department, two officers from Commercial Tax Department (Now State GST) and one officer from the Central Excise Department (Now Central GST).
Mr. Ramana was a Minister (December 2012 to November 2013) in the AIADMK regime. The investigation agency had registered a case under the provisions of PMLA in the Gutkha Scam against unknown officials of State/ Central Government, public servants and others for misuse of official position and demand of illegal gratification, based on a FIR filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation, New Delhi, under Section 120(B) (Criminal conspiracy) and Sections 7, 8, 12 & 13(2) r/w 13(1)(d) of Prevention of Corruption Act.
The FIR registered by CBI was pursuant to the orders of the Madras High Court to conduct investigations into all aspects of the offence of illegal manufacture, import, supply, distribution and sale of Gutkha and other chewable tobacco which were banned in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry since May 2013.
The ED said that investigation under the PMLA revealed that the three associates — A.V. Madhava Rao, P.V. Srinivasa Rao and Tallam Uma Shankar Gupta — and others, who had associated themselves in illegal manufacture, sale and distribution of Gutkha products in Tamil Nadu, had effected a turnover of ₹639.40 crore from May 2013 to June 2016 and the ill-gotten money derived out of the illegal business were invested in movable and immovable properties in Andhra Pradesh, Puducherry and Tamil Nadu. These assets were purchased in the name of family members/relatives and entities owned by them and their family members/relatives.
“The criminal activity related to the payment of bribes to the Central and State government officials as quid pro quo for allowing the illegal business of Gutkha and other tobacco products which are banned in the State of Tamil Nadu. The above criminal activity is related to the scheduled offence under PMLA and therefore, the movable and immovable properties acquired by means of illegal manufacture and sale of Gutkha amounting to ₹246.10 crore were attached under PMLA,” the ED said in a statement.
“This is a preliminary chargesheet that we have filed against 31 persons, including the former Minister. The final prosecution complaint (chargesheet) will be filed after the CBI files its second and final chargesheet in the scam,” a source in the ED told The Hindu on Tuesday.
The Gutkha scam exposed by The Hindu in June 2017 pertains to the alleged involvement of top politicians and police officials, in taking bribes to the tune of ₹39.91 crore for facilitating the storage, transport and sale of the banned commodity in Chennai city.