Action sought against central excise personnel
The Directorate General of Vigilance (Customs & Central Excise) has established prima facie offence by at least half-a-dozen central excise personnel, including some Group-A officers, in the sensational gutkha scam, and has sent its report to the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC).
According to sources in the agency, the South Zonal Unit of the Directorate has sent a report to the CVC, recommending “appropriate action” against the officials who were transferred to other locations soon after the multi-crore scam was exposed.
“Our enquiry reveals prima facie offence in terms of dereliction of duty. Since evidence on record also points to corruption involving these officials, we have sent a detailed report to the CVC suggesting appropriate action. In the normal course, such cases are referred to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which is the prosecuting agency under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.
The involvement of central excise officials was brought to light after the ‘book of accounts’, seized by Income Tax officials during a raid on the premises of the company manufacturing the MDM brand of gutkha in July 2016, revealed payouts to some officials in Chennai and Delhi.
In a separate investigation, the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Intelligence Unit, in October 2017, registered a case and collected ₹9 crore in excise duty from the manufacturer of the banned gutkha/pan masala products. The Income Tax department is also in the process of imposing tax on the income declared by the manufacturer between 2014 and 2016.
With the Madras High Court transferring the investigation into the gutkha scam – involving a Minister, senior IPS officers and others – intelligence sources say the offences against the Central and State government officials could be clubbed by one investigation unit of the CBI.
Meanwhile, sources in the CBI’s Anti-Corruption Branch here said the Madras High Court order transferring the gutkha case to the CBI was sent to the CBI Director, who would decide which unit of the agency should take up the investigation.
Opposition parties have demanded that the case not be handed over to the Tamil Nadu unit of the CBI, since the scam involves a Minister and senior officers.