The Enforcement Directorate has filed a chargesheet against former Tamil Nadu minister B V Ramana, some government officials and a few others in connection with its money laundering probe into an alleged gutkha scam in the state.
The central probe agency said in a statement in Delhi the prosecution complaint was filed before the court of Principal Sessions Judge in Chennai under various sections of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) with a “prayer for rewarding punishment to the accused and confiscation of attached properties totalling to Rs 246.10 crore”.
It said those named in the chargesheet include former minister of commercial tax B V Ramana (Dec 2012-Nov 2013), S Vignesh, the properitor of Annamalai Industries, his associates who ran the alleged illegal guthka business in Chennai, their family members and relatives.
Also, seven public servants including two Tamil Nadu police officers, as many officials of the food safety department, two of the commercial tax department and one official from the central excise department.
The money laundering case filed by the ED is based on a CBI FIR after the Madras High Court in April 2018 had directed the latter agency to conduct investigations into all aspects of the offence of illegal manufacture, import, supply, distribution and sale of gutkha and other chewable tobacco which was banned in Tamil Nadu and the Union Territory of Puducherry from May, 2013.
The ED said its probe found that “three associates AV Madhava Rao, PV Srinivasa Rao, Tallam Uma Shankar Gupta and others had associated themselves in illegal manufacture, sale and distribution of gutkha products in Tamil Nadu and had effected a turnover of Rs 639.40 crore from May 2013-June 2016 and the ill-gotten money derived out of the illegal business was invested in movable and immovable properties in Andhra Pradesh, Puducherry and Tamil Nadu.”
The three are promoters of a company, Jayam Industries, which manufactured MDM brand gutkha.
“These assets were purchased in the name of family members, relatives and entities owned by them and their family members and relatives,” the ED claimed.
The criminal activity, it alleged, 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 alleged scam came to light on July 8, 2017, when the Income Tax department raided the godown, offices and residences of a pan masala and gutkha manufacturer in Tamil Nadu who had been facing charges of tax evasion to the tune of Rs 250 crore.