Illicit liquor trade in Punjab under ED lens
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has started a probe into the high-profile illicit liquor trade that has snowballed into a major political issue in Punjab with opposition parties --- the Akali Dal and the BJP --- targeting the Congress government.
The ED wing at Jalandhar has shot off letters to Punjab Police seeking records, including FIRs, investigation findings, bank details related to illicit liquor trade cases, it is learnt.
Patiala SSP Mandeep Singh Sidhu confirmed that they have received the ED letter and will send a reply soon.
The directorate, conducting probe under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), is looking into least 11 FIRs registered in various police stations in Patiala, Khanna and Ludhiana, said officials privy to the development.
On May 14, an illegal liquor bottling plant was busted in Shambu area of Ghanaur constituency in Patiala and Congress sarpanch Amrik Singh and Dipesh Kumar of Rajpura, an aide of a ruling party MLA, were booked. Dipesh, who is believed to be the kingpin of the racket, has been arrested.
After two days, Extra Neutral Alcohol (ENA), a primary raw material used for making illicit liquor, was seized from a tubewell owned by Akali leader and panchayat samiti member Darshan Singh in Pabri village of Ghanaur town. An illegal distillery busted in Khanna also under the ED lens.
The focus of the ED probe is on financial transactions. “As per a conservative estimate, the accused of Ghanaur illegal distillery had earned Rs 100 crore in the last five months,” said an excise official, pleading anonymity.
The ED has asked the Patiala police to provide photocopies of all FIRs registered in the case and details of properties of accused and suspects.
They agency has also asked the excise and taxation department about details of ENA manufacturing and supply chain.
The opposition --- Akalis, BJP and AAP --- has accused the state government of patronising illicit liquor trade. Chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh, on his part, has said that the guilty will be brought to book and no one will be spared. Apart from constituting a special investigation team, Amarinder has also set up an excise reforms group to break the nexus between producers, wholesalers, and retailers. The five-member group has been asked to submit its recommendations on destroying any such nexus within 60 days, thus paving the way for the elimination of illicit liquor trade and maximisation of the state’s excise revenue.