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CBI Questions ED Deputy Director in Tamil Nadu Gutka Scam

New Delhi: The CBI Thursday questioned a senior Enforcement Directorate officer, a recipient of Presidential Certificate, in connection with the Tamil Nadu gutka scam in which several politicians, policemen and customs and excise staff are under scanner, officials said.

They, however, refused to disclose whether S K Sheoran, presently posted as Deputy Director in the Enforcement Directorate, was questioned as a witness or a suspect in the case.

He was posted as Assistant Director in the Directorate General of Central Excise Intelligence when the scam allegedly took place and the questioning pertained to his work, they said.

Sheoran, an Indian Revenue Service (Customs and Central Excise) officer, was questioned by the agency at its Chennai office Thursday, they said.
He is a recipient of Presidential Award of Appreciation Certificate for specially distinguished record of service, given to the officers of the Customs and Central Excise Department on Republic Day in 2015.

The agency also questioned Superintendent of Police, Villupuram, Jayakumar, the then deputy commissioner of Central Crime Branch, in connection with the scam at its office in Chennai, they said.

The scam surfaced when a diary of purported payments to the high and mighty in police, politics and other regulator agencies was seized during searches at the godown, offices and residence of a gutka manufacturer, Annamalai Industries, on July 8, 2017.

The company was allegedly manufacturing and selling MGM brand of gutka (a concoction of tobacco and pan masala) in Tamil Nadu in spite of a ban imposed on such activities in the state in 2013.

The company was facing charges of tax evasion to the tune of Rs 250 crore.

A DMK leader had approached the Madras High Court in April this year, seeking a CBI probe into the alleged bribery of top officials and politicians who allowed the company to operate with impunity in the state, they said.

It was alleged by the petitioner that monthly payments worth over Rs 14 lakh were made to Health Minister Vijayabaskar, while payments in lakhs of rupees were made to officials of the Central Excise, Food Safety and Sales Tax department of the state, senior police officials and politicians, among others.

This was challenged in the Supreme Court by a Tamil Nadu health official but the apex court sided with the Madras High Court order and asked the CBI to register a case.

The agency had registered an FIR against unidentified officials of the Tamil Nadu government, the Central Excise Department and the Food Safety Department in May.

The company was earlier known as Jayam Industries and was rechristened as Annamalai Industries to continue the sale after Tamil Nadu banned gutka in 2013, they said.

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