ED raids in Delhi liquor policy probe span 7 states

Published on Sep 07, 2022 05:20 AM IST

The federal anti-money laundering probe agency has taken over the Central Bureau of Investigation’s (CBI) first information report (FIR) in the matter, which was filed on August 17 alleging irregularities in the excise policy.

A view of the residence of businessman Sameer Mahandru in Jor Bagh, where the Enforcement Directorate (ED) conducted a raid in relation to the Delhi Excise Policy case in New Delhi, India, on Tuesday, September 06, 2022. (Photo by Raj K Raj/Hindustan Times)
A view of the residence of businessman Sameer Mahandru in Jor Bagh, where the Enforcement Directorate (ED) conducted a raid in relation to the Delhi Excise Policy case in New Delhi, India, on Tuesday, September 06, 2022. (Photo by Raj K Raj/Hindustan Times)
By, New Delhi

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Tuesday carried out raids at over three dozen locations in Delhi and six states after registering a money laundering case involving Delhi’s now scrapped excise policy 2021-22, people familiar with the development said.

Officials who didn’t want to be named said searches were going on at the premises of some individuals and entities including liquor distributors, middlemen, licence holders etc, to collect evidence regarding the money trail, which will be the focus of ED’s probe under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

The federal anti-money laundering probe agency has taken over the Central Bureau of Investigation’s (CBI) first information report (FIR) in the matter, which was filed on August 17 alleging irregularities in the excise policy.

However, the agency didn’t raid the premises of Delhi deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia on Tuesday.

As part of its money laundering probe, ED will be looking into two payments: 1 crore paid by Sameer Mahendru, managing director of Indospirit Group, to Dinesh Arora, alleged to be a close associate of Sisodia; and a payment of 2-4 crore by Mahendru to Gurugram-based Arjun Pandey.

The federal anti-money laundering probe agency, which has powers to attach assets under PMLA, has named Sisodia, Dinesh Arora, Vijay Nair, Manoj Rai, former vice-president of liquor maker Pernod Ricard, Sameer Mahendru, managing director of Indospirit Group, a distributor, Amandeep Dhal, director of Brindco Sales Pvt Ltd, a wholesale, Amit Arora, director of Buddy Retail Private Ltd, a retailer, Sunny Marwah of Mahadev Liquors, a trading firm, also director in Ponty Chadha group firms, Telangana-based Arun Ramchandra Pillai; Gurugram resident Arjun Pandey, and three excise department officials, former excise commissioner Arva Gopi Krishna, former deputy commissioner Anand Tiwari, and assistant commissioner Pankaj Bhatnagar in its case.

In reaction to the Tuesday’s raids, deputy CM Sisodia said nothing will be found in the raids. “Earlier, CBI conducted a raid in which nothing was found, even in the ED raid nothing will be found. It is all being done to stop the reforms being implemented by (CM) Arvind Kejriwal in education sector. They will not be able to stop it even after misusing the CBI and ED,” Sisodia said, slamming the BJP led central government. Sisodia accused the central government of misusing CBI and ED.

Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) chief spokesperson Saurabh Bhardwaj said that after CBI, ED too has given a clean chit to Sisodia in the case. “The manner in which the CBI gave a clean chit to Manish Sisodia after a raid and inquiry, the ED also gave him a clean chit today. ED went everywhere and also informed the news channels that they will raid his house. But they later gave up their hunt because they knew that raiding his house would mean making a mockery of themselves,” said Bhardwaj.

On Monday, CBI refuted Sisodia’s claims that he has been given a clean chit by the central anti-corruption agency.

ED has not reacted to AAP’s claims.

The state government’s 2021-22 excise policy aimed to revamp the liquor business in Delhi, but was met with stiff resistance from the city’s civic body and opposition BJP, even as plans to improve the consumer experience, allow discounts on in-store liquor purchase and increase revenues fell through. The elected government and lieutenant governor have traded blame over the failure of the excise policy-- with the latter alleging corruption by the former; and the former claiming that the latter’s predecessor sabotaged the policy. The government scrapped the policy after the LG recommended a CBI probe into ‘alleged irregularities’ in the regime.

The anti-corruption agency mentioned in its August 17 FIR that two payments, the transfer of 1 crore by Sameer Mahendru (managing director of Indospirit Group) to Sisodia’s aide Dinesh Arora , and another payment of 2-4 crore by Mahendru to Arjun Pandey on behalf of Vijay Nair, would be looked at. ED officials said they are looking at other transactions as well. Nair has been associated with AAP for years.

Data from the excise department showed that during the first quarter of the year, the state realised 1,485 crore in excise revenue under the new policy, 37.51% below the 2022-23 budget estimates.

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