Illegal liquor scam: ED transfers case to New Delhi from Jalandhar
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has transferred the illegal liquor scam case from its Jalandhar zonal office to its headquarters in New Delhi. As part of its work, the financial investigation agency has also been probing cases related to the hooch tragedy that claimed 122 lives in August in Punjab.
Sources said after the zonal office transfers the case files to the headquarters, a special task force of the ED may probe the case further.
In September first week, the Jalandhar zonal office of the ED had filed an Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR) under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) in 13 cases. These included 122 deaths due to illicit liquor in Tarn Taran, Amritsar and Batala and illicit liquor bottling plants at Shambu, Khanna and Ludhiana, which were busted during the lockdown. The ED also prepared a list of 40 suspects in the illegal liquor trade.
ED officers, on the condition of anonymity, said the transfer of the case to the headquarters was a shock, as the agency had taken suo motu notice of developments, with the Punjab Police dragging its feet in sharing any information related to the illegal liquor scam. In August, ED deputy director Niranjan Singh had also met Patiala SSP, vigilance bureau and excise department as part of the probe and sought some documents.
“No specific reason has been conveyed to us for the decision. We worked hard to register the ECIR despite no cooperation from the Punjab Police,” said an ED official, not authorised to talk to the media.
Sources said the transfer of the case may be linked to the Centre wanting to tighten its noose over political leaders, if any, linked to the trade. This might also be an attempt by other big-wigs of the liquor world, involved in illegal activities, to ensure that the ED investigation is scuttled.
ED sources added that names of three Congress MLAs and their close aides has, directly or indirectly, surfaced in the illicit liquor trade. The agency has been probing the source of raw material used to make illegal liquor, due to which the hooch tragedy occurred. The ED has been also exploring financial transactions. “As per a conservative estimate, the accused of Ghanaur illegal distillery had earned Rs 100 crore in five months,” an ED official added.