ED attaches properties worth over 70 crore in Delhi excise policy case

Updated on Jan 25, 2023 02:28 AM IST

The federal anti money laundering agency had filed its second charge sheet against five individuals and seven companies into the alleged irregularities in the suspended Delhi Excise Policy 2021-22.

The Delhi government’s 2021-22 excise policy aimed to revitalise the city’s liquor business. (Raj K Raj/HT Photo)
The Delhi government’s 2021-22 excise policy aimed to revitalise the city’s liquor business. (Raj K Raj/HT Photo)
ByNeeraj Chauhan

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has attached properties worth over 70 crore that belong to several key people in Delhi excise policy scam, people familiar with the development said on Tuesday.

The agency, however, refused to divulge the names of accused persons whose properties have been provisionally attached under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

Confirming the development, a senior officer said, “We have attached the properties of certain accused persons running into crores. Further details cannot be shared at this time”. He added that attached assets’ amount ranges from 50 crore to 70 crore.

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The federal anti money laundering agency had, in first week of this month, filed its second charge sheet against five individuals, including the Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) communications in-charge Vijay Nair, and seven companies into the alleged irregularities in the suspended Delhi Excise Policy 2021-22.

The other four individuals named in the charge sheet include Abhishek Boinpally, an alleged consultant who lobbied for alleged ‘South Group’, Aurobindo Pharma’s promoter P Sarath Chandra Reddy, Pernod Ricard’s manager Benoy Babu and owner of Buddy Retail Pvt Ltd, Amit Arora.

The first charge sheet was filed by ED in the case against businessman Sameer Mahendru in November last year.

ED is yet to name Delhi’s deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia in any of the charge sheets but investigations against him and other named persons in the case is continuing, it has claimed.

In its first charge sheet, filed on November 26 last year, under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), in which only businessman Sameer Mahendru and his firms were named, the federal agency had claimed that Mahendru had formed a ‘super cartel’ with the alleged ‘South Group’ to control nine out of 32 retail zones in Delhi’s liquor business.

The agency had also termed Vijay Nair as the one who “orchestrated the entire scam”, while alleging that he received advance kickbacks worth 100 crore from the alleged ‘South Group’, comprising Andhra Pradesh member of Parliament (MP) and YSR Congress leader Magunta Srinivasulu Reddy, his son Raghav Magunta, Telangana MLC and Bharat Rashtra Samithi leader Kalvakuntla Kavitha, who is the daughter of Telangana chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao, and businessman Sarath Reddy, the promoter of Aurobindo Group.

Sisodia has been named as the primary accused both by the ED and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in the case. However, ED is yet to question him and officials familiar with the probe said he is likely to be called for questioning soon.

All those named by the ED have denied the allegations against them.

The agency has pegged the loss in the entire scam to be worth 2,873 crore.

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The Delhi government’s 2021-22 excise policy aimed to revitalise the city’s liquor business. It aimed to replace a sales-volume based regime with a license fee one for traders, and 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, however, ended abruptly, with lieutenant governor Vinai Kumar Saxena recommending a CBI probe into the alleged irregularities in the regime. This ultimately resulted in the policy being scrapped prematurely and being replaced by the 2020-21 regime, with the AAP alleging that Saxena’s predecessor sabotaged the move with a few last-minute changes that resulted in lower-than-expected revenues.

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