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Gutkha scam: It did take place but I was not involved, says former Chennai police commissioner

The ‘guthka scam’ relates to the fact that while the Tamil Nadu government had banned gutkha and other chewing tobacco products in 2013, they continued to be sold in the state till 2016, allegedly with the connivance of politicians and police

india Updated: Sep 07, 2018 21:26 IST
M Manikandan
M Manikandan
Hindustan Times, Chennai
Gutka Scam,Tamil Nadu,Gutkha Scam
The tobacco, cigarettes and gutka etc being sold openly near Minto Road in New Delhi.(HT File Photo)

The gutkha scam did take place in Tamil Nadu between 2013 and 2016, admitted former commissioner of police, Chennai, S George whose house was raided by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) which is probing the multi-crore case. However, he asserted that he was not involved.

Two days after the federal agency’s raid at 35 places including the residences of state health minister C Vijaya Bhaskar, director general of police (DGP) TK Rajendran and his house in connection with the scam, George held a press conference to protest his innocence.

The ‘guthka scam’ relates to the fact that while the state government had banned gutkha and other chewing tobacco products in 2013, they continued to be sold in the state till 2016, allegedly with the connivance of politicians and police. A raid conducted by Income Tax (IT) officials in in July 2016 on a warehouse owned by gutkha barons Madhava Rao, Srinivasa Rao and Uma Shankar Gupta in Red Hills, Chennai had indicated that gutkha products were continued to be sold.

The IT officials had also retrieved a diary from the site in which there were details about alleged payments made by the gutkha barons to the state health minister, and senior police officers Rajendran and George.

Subsequently, the Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption (DVAC) had filed a case. However a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by DMK MLA J Anbazhagan had led to the Madras high court ordering CBI to take over the probe in April 2018.

“I am not saying that the scam has not happened. Definitely, there is a scam. Someone could have got the money. However, I am not involved in the scam,” George said.

He also said that he was not the city’s commissioner during the time period when the payments were allegedly made. Noting Anbazhagan’s plea said that he had received payment from the gutkha barons in April, May and June of 2016, he said Rajendran, JK Tripathi and Asuthosh Sukhla were the city police chiefs between October 2015 to September 2016.

George also claimed that some of his subordinates failed to bring the issue to his notice.

“I learnt that Chennai city’s then deputy commissioner, crime branch Jayakumar – who is currently the Villupuram district superintendent of police- failed to report details about the scam to me. So, I gave him below average rating in his appraisal in 2016. Also, I wrote a letter to the government seeking a probe into that matter in December 2016. However, there was no response from the state government,” he said.

Alleging that he was being targeted George said: “I have not faced any allegations or complaints during my 36 years long service. However, now I have been targeted with this case. There are 300 police stations in the city. How can such a big scam happen only with the knowledge of the commissioner of police?”

On being asked why he failed to take action against his subordinates for not revealing the details of the scam to him, he said the state government was seized of the matter.

“Before I wrote a letter to the government, the matter had already reached the higher level officials and representatives of the government. But they did not act. I don’t know the reason for that,” he said.

George said his name was being dragged into the matter to prevent him from becoming the state’s DGP.

“There is a conspiracy to prevent me and T K Rajendran from becoming the DGP of TN and that is the reason why our names have been dragged into the gutkha scam - to taint us,” he said.

He refused to comment on the alleged involvement of some politicians including the health minister in the scam. “Since I led the police department in Chennai, I wanted to clear my stand. I don’t want to talk about politicians and others,” he said.

Earlier in the day, Lok Sabha deputy speaker and AIADMk leader M Thambidurai accused the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) of being hand-in-glove regarding the CBI raids.

“The raids were conducted, when (expelled DMK leader) Azhagiri was taking out his peace rally. So, it seems DMK and BJP could have a connection to pressurise and ensure defection of our party (AIADMK) leaders with these raids,” he told media.

However, both the DMK and BJP dismissed Thambidurai’s charge.

First Published: Sep 07, 2018 21:26 IST