Delhi excise policy: ED arrests businessman Amit Arora
The policy was aimed to revitalise the city’s flagging liquor business and sought to replace a sales-volume-based regime
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has arrested businessman Amit Arora in connection with its money laundering probe into the Delhi excise policy 2021-22, people familiar with the matter said on Wednesday.
Arora was named an accused in the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI)’s First Information Report (FIR) registered on August 17 to probe alleged irregularities in the formulation and implementation of the now-scrapped policy.
Delhi’s deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia was also named as an accused in the case. ED is probing the alleged money laundering angle to it.
Officials said Arora, a key player in Delhi’s liquor business, was arrested under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) and will be produced in a court.
In its FIR, the CBI claimed a close associate of Sisodia was actively involved in managing and diverting the undue pecuniary advantage collected from liquor licencees to accused public servants. The CBI and ED filed their first charge sheets in the case last week.
The CBI filed its charge sheet against seven people including ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)’s communication strategist Vijay Nair and Abhishek Boinpally, a businessman who allegedly lobbied for retail liquor licences for South India-based companies.
Sameer Mahendru, managing director of liquor distributor Indospirit Group, Arun Ramchandra Pillai, a Telangana-based businessman, Mootha Gautam, managing director of India Ahead News, Kuldeep Singh, former deputy excise commissioner, and Narendra Singh, former assistant excise commissioner, were also named in the charge sheet.
The ED filed its charge sheet last week against Mahendru and his two companies. It claimed details of the policy were leaked to a few manufacturers at least 45 days before they were released to the public. The agency claimed that 34 “important” people, including Sisodia, liquor barons, and government officials changed 140 mobile phones to destroy evidence.
The excise policy was aimed to revitalise the city’s flagging liquor business and sought to replace a sales-volume-based regime with that of licence fee. It promised swankier stores, free of the infamous metal grilles, ultimately giving customers a better buying experience. The policy also introduced discounts and offers on the purchase of liquor, a first for Delhi.
The plan came to an abrupt end when Delhi’s lieutenant governor Vinai Kumar Saxena recommended a CBI probe into alleged irregularities. This resulted in the scrapping of the policy prematurely and the return to the 2020-21 regime.
AAP accused Saxena’s predecessor of sabotaging the 2021-22 policy with a few last-minute changes that resulted in lower-than-expected revenues. The ED also alleged that bribes worth ₹100 crore were given in advance to public servants by select business groups.