“Na Khaunga Na Khane dhoonga” thundered Modi conveying a message that neither he will indulge in corruption or allow others to indulge in corruption. However, as is his wont, those were just words. Right from the Rafale scam to promoting and encouraging corrupt officers and humouring them with important postings Modi’s anti-corruption crusade is far from satisfactory.
In fact he is charged with using the law enforcement agencies as his greyhound to hunt the opposition party leaders. There is a plethora of examples from Bengal to Maharashtra and Kerala.
Three years have been completed since the CBI took over the gutkha scam from the Tamil Nadu’s Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption on the orders of the Madras High Court.
After undergoing many ups and downs, the Gutkha scam investigation by the CBI appears to be going nowhere and the CBI is maintaining a conspicuous silence with regard to a former Minister and two DGPs (now retired). While the CBI has chosen to charge sheet the bribe givers and some small fish none of the bigwigs involved in this humongous and hazardous scam have been charged so far for reasons best known to the agency.
On 8 May 2013, the government of Tamil Nadu banned all kind of gutkha products across the state. However, due to the presence of several north Indian labourers who are here for construction and other works, the demand for gutkha and chewable tobacco products remain high even today.
In spite of the ban, the illegal sale of gutkha was continuing without any hindrance with the involvement of several officers and politicians. A perusal of the charge sheet filed by the Enforcement Directorate, accessed by Savukku, reveals a very sorry state of affairs and how a well-oiled bribe machinery was able to continue the illegal production and sale of a banned product.
The huge scam came to light when the Income Tax department conducted searches in the godown of an illegal gutkha manufacturing unit at Redhills on 8 July 2016. A team of officers led by Balakrishna IRS, Principal Chief Commissioner of Income Tax (Investigation) led the search and they stumbled upon a humongous scam.
The Income Tax department promptly informed all the authorities about the details of public servants based on these details to the concerned authorities. The then DGP & Head of Police Force Ashok Kumar sent a note to the government requesting that the matter may be handed over for a probe to either DVAC or CB. CID and also cautioned the government that this has the potency to blow up. The then Health Minister Vijayabaskar, who was the principal bribe receiver in this scam, reported to Sasikala that Ashok Kumar and the then Addl CoP Central Crime Branch, Su.Arunachalam are conspiring with the DMK and trying to blow up the Gutkha scam to bring disrepute to the government. Immediately Ashok Kumar was asked to go on leave. He promptly put in his papers and left the service. Arunachalam, an Addl DGP was transferred posted as Vigilance Officer for Tirunelveli Transport Corporation.
To read more about his, read this piece Chew, Spit & Bury – The Anatomy of Gutkha Scam by this author written in April 2018. The secret letter sent by Sasikala was later seized by the Income Tax authorities during a search conducted in Sasikala’s room in Jaya’s house.
The manufacture and sale of gutkha was carried out by one PV Srinivasa Rao, AV Madhava Rao and Tallam Umashankar Gupta. The oral partnership entered among the three was in the ratio of 20:35:45. The three had invested Rs.40 lakhs, Rs.50 lakhs and Rs.1 crore respectively.
The business was carried out in the name of a proprietary concern named Annamalai Industries. The following were their important staff who were helping in the running of this illegal business.
1) A.Manohar is the go getter. He took care of the administrative and Operations part of the business.
2) Ashok Kumar Yadav and Rajesh were handling the sales and collection of cash.
3) Ms Yogeshwari was the accountant and she meticulously maintained the accounts of the firm and this proved to be a clincher when the IT conducted searches.
4) Premkumar, Anji Babu and Pasupuleti Srinivasulu were also into distribution and sales across the state.
5) BR Nandakumar and Rajendran were the key persons who were paying up the officials to ensure smooth running of the business.
The firm had 10 premises in Redhills area alone for manufacture of gutkha. The brands manufactured in these firms are MDM, Garuda, Temper, Local, RCM, RCM 1000 and KF.
Income Tax found accounts to the effect of profit sharing for each month. To understand the scale of this scam, let us see how much each partner made in one month.
Umashankar Gupta Rs.7,60,50,000
AV Madhava Rao Rs.5,91,50,000
PV Srinivasa Rao Rs.3,38,00,000
This is a break up of Rs.16,90,00,000 into 45%, 35% and 20% respectively. If they are making a profit of Rs.16.90 crores per month, imagine the scale of this scam.
The profit made by the illegal gutkha factory between June 2013 and June 2016 is as follows :
Net Profit Rs.286,52,71,754
After the ban on gutkha, operations in the factory were carried out only during night hours between 10 pm and 4 am. As the demand increased, they spread out their operations and hired more premises in several places.
Sale was only through case. A total of 15 distributors were in place for Chennai and for the rest of the state 20. All the cash from the sales were collected from Aminjikarai office of this firm and sent to Parrys Corner through Hawala agents. The cash was subsequently transferred to Guntur, Salem, Chennai, Uthukottai, and few other districts. Later money will be paid in to the accounts of 7 firms and later several properties were purchased in the name of these firms.
The details of bribe paid to officials and Minister were made in abbreviations. A few examples are CP= Commissioner of Police, ACP = Assistant Commissioner of Police, HM = Health Minister JCP = Joint Commissioner of Police, CE= Central Excise, CCP = Chennai Corporation.
Bribe for the Health Minister Vijayabaskar was paid through his PA named one Saravanan. Bribe for police officers were paid through Velu Karthikeyan. Velu Karthikeyan is an advocate and a member of the Tamil Nadu Bar Council.
Let’s look at the bribe received by the officials pertaining to Tamil Nadu.
April to July 2016 V.Arumugam, ACP Rs.30,00,000
April to July 2016 Offls of Chennai Corporation Rs.30,00,000
April to July 2016 Senthil Murugan, Food Rs.14,00,000
April to July 2016 V.Arumugam, ACP Rs.30,00,000
April to July 2016 TK Rajendran, IPS Rs.30,00,000
April to July 2016 Delhi Central Excise Rs.25,00,000
June 15l to March 2016 Dinakaran IPS, JCP Rs.55,00,000
June 15 to July 2016 Mannarmannan ACP Rs.1,30,00,000*
*Look how an ordinary Assistant Commissioner of Police has outwitted all senior officials including the Minister. For reasons that are not clear, Mannarmannan has pleaded guilty before the ED that he has received bribe.
June 15 to July 2016 Vijayabaskar, Health Rs.1,52,00,000
June 15 to July 2016 TK Rajendran IPS Rs. 90,00,000
November 14 to May 15 Dinakaran IPS RS.40,00,000
November 14 to May 15 S.George IPS RS.40,00,000
While the CBI has charge sheeted the gutkha manufacturers and a couple of officials from Excise, the ED has charge sheeted a total of 31 persons. Apart from the manufacturers, their employees and whoever were holding properties on their behalf have been charged. One significant name in this is former ADMK Miniser BV.Ramana. Ramana came into the picture when he was receiving bribe in his capacity as Minister for Commercial Taxes.
The police started receiving money after they conducted a search in the premises on 8 June 2014. The search was conducted by S.Jeyakumar Superintendent of Police. He was the Deputy Commissioner of Police, Anti-Gangster Wing, Chennai City Police. He claimed that, based on a tip off, he conducted searches in the premises and seized huge quantities of gutkha, ground tobacco, empty sachets for packing. He claimed that he had informed about the search and the discovery to the then Additional CoP, Crime, R.Nallasivan. However, Nallasivan flatly denied this and told the ED officials that, he neither received any information in this regard nor issued any instructions in this regard.
Jayakumar, further claimed that the gutkha so seized was handed over to the local authorities. Vimala the then DC of Police Madhavaram, claimed that she handed over the seized gutkha to Sampath Inspector of Police.
To hide this scam Vimala and others adopted an innovative way. They managed to Sivakumar, Food Safety Officer, Tiruvallur. The government laboratory which conducted tests on the seized goods, gave a report that no presence of tobacco was found in the seized materials. (Ground tobacco ???)
Though Jayakumar claimed that he had handed over the seized goods to local authorities he could not produce any record to support his claim. The then Addl CoP Nallasivam also had flatly rejected this saying when seizures to such huge effects are made, they should be recorded properly and the premises sealed immediately.
Earlier, a PIL was filed in the Madras High Court for a CBI probe. The court ordered a DVAC probe and TK Rajendran was the Head of Police Force then. S.Murugan IPS was the Joint Director of DVAC.
Being the Head of Police Force, Rajendran wielded tremendous influence over Murugan and Murugan was battling a sexual harassment complaint filed by a woman SP working in DVAC. So, they both were mutually benefitted as in spite of the allegation, TK. Rajendran refused to transfer Murugan, but transferred the victim SP.
Murugan passed on every information with regard to the investigation made and in fact produced documents him thrice a week, according to a source in DGP’s office. The DVAC was about to exonerate all senior officers, Minister and fix the responsibility on ACP Mannar Mannan alone.
The Madras High Court interfered and transferred the investigation to the CBI in May 2018. To give credit to the agency, the agency did meticulous investigation, conducted searches in the houses of TK Rajendran, S.George and all other accused. As you could see in the preceding paragraphs, this is almost an open and shut case. The bribery details are meticulously recorded in TALLY. The accountant who maintained in this has vouched to this and the owners have given statements about the bribery list.
CBI conducted searches in September 2018. They seized all necessary documents and had wound up the investigation in quick time. However, till date, even after a lapse of 3 years, no charge sheet have been filed in the court against Vijayabaskar or TK Rajendran or S.George.
Sources in Delhi say, due to the involvement of former Health Minister Vijayabaskar, there was no “political clearance” to file charge sheet.
Interestingly, the agency chose to arrest the bribe givers viz. PV Srinivasa Rao, AV Madhava Rao and Tallam Umashankar Gupta and a few excise officials. They spent more than 10 months in prison. But none of the police officers were arrested.
Mannar Mannan, ACP, was placed under suspension on the day of his retirement. S.George retired and is living peacefully. TK.Rajendran retired as Head of Police Force with ceremonial parade. Vijayabaskar went on to complete his tenure as Minister and is now a sitting MLA.
It is shameful that the India’s premier investigating agency behaves like a ‘caged parror’ as it was once termed by the Supreme Court and handles people with political connection with kid gloves. Big fishes are allowed to go scot-free and small fishes are prosecuted to hoodwink the judiciary and public.
Is this the meaning of Chowkidar’s claim – “Na Khaunga Na Khane dhoonga”