Gutkha scam: ED attaches assets worth Rs 246 crore in Chennai, Puducherry
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Monday attached properties worth over Rs 246 crore in connection with its money laundering probe in the Gurkha scam. According to the ED, the attached properties include 174 immovable properties located in Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, and Andhra Pradesh, having a market value of Rs 243.80 crore and moveable properties, in the form of shares and vehicles, worth Rs 2.29 crore.
The investigation, in this case, was initiated by the financial probe agency after the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) lodged an FIR against the officials of Tamil Nadu government, public servants and others on the instructions from the Madras High Court.
The high court had ordered to initiate an investigation into all aspects of the offence which included the illegal manufacture, import, supply, distribution and sale of Gutkha and other chewable tobacco which were banned in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry with effect from May 2013.
The agency claimed that during their investigation under provisions of money laundering act, it came to light that, "the accused AV Madhava Rao, PV Srinivasa Rao, Tallam Uma Shankar Gupta and others associated in illegal manufacture, sale and distribution of Gutkha products in Tamil Nadu had a turnover of Rs 639.40 crore from June 2013 to June 2016 and the ill-gotten money derived out of the criminal activities were invested in moveable and immoveable properties in Andhra Pradesh, Puducherry, and Tamil Nadu."
The investigators maintain that: "The above criminal activity is related to the Scheduled offence under PMLA and therefore, the properties acquired by means of illegal manufacture and sale of Gutkha resulting from such criminal activity were consequently liable for attachment."
The agency during its probe found that the investments were made by the accused in the form of - land purchased in the name of M/s Gayathri Realtors, M/s Medha Diary Private Limited, M/s Vaijayanthi Spinners, etc. using the cash generated out of the sale proceeds of the illegal Gutkha business.
Three factory premises were also acquired by the accused in the names of relatives and employees during the period to facilitate the smooth running of the illegal Gutkha business.
"Further, out of the profits of Gutkha business, personal investments were made by accused persons by the purchase of land in their name and in the name of family members and relatives. Besides, shares were purchased in M/s Goutham Buddha Textile Park, Guntur and vehicles were purchased for the sale and distribution of Gutkha products," the ED added.
The major investments in real estate made by the accused were in Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh apart from investments in Salem, Puducherry, and Chennai.