Corruption worth ₹2,000 crore found in Chhattisgarh liquor scam: ED
The Enforcement Directorate on Saturday arrested Anwar Dhebar, brother of Congress leader and Raipur mayor Aijaz Dhebar, in the Chhattisgarh liquor scam
A day after the arrest of Anwar Dhebar, brother of Congress leader and Raipur mayor Aijaz Dhebar, in the Chhattisgarh liquor scam, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) said it has found evidence of “unprecedented corruption” and money laundering worth ₹2,000 crore, which was being run with the “backing” of high-level politicians and bureaucrats in the state.
Anwar Dhebar was arrested by the federal anti-money laundering agency on Saturday from a hotel in Raipur while he was trying to flee from the back door.
The agency said in a statement on Sunday it has “collected evidence of unprecedented corruption and money laundering to the tune of ₹2,000 crore between 2019 and 2022”.
The money laundering probe, it said, has revealed that “an organised criminal syndicate led by Anwar Dhebar was operating in Chhattisgarh. Anwar Dhebar, though a private citizen, was backed by and was working for illegal gratification of the high level political executives and senior bureaucrats. He weaved an elaborate conspiracy and stitched a wide network of persons or entities to execute the scam so that money was illegally collected from every bottle of liquor sold in Chhattisgarh.”
Raids were carried out earlier in March in the case. The ED probe under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) is based on an Income Tax department charge sheet filed in May 2022.
The agency also claimed in its remand paper submitted before a court on Saturday that “Anwar Dhebar was the main collection agent and frontman of this (liquor) syndicate...that had completely hijacked the administration of excise department in Chhattisgarh”.
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The Chhattisgarh government controls all the aspects of liquor trade from procurement to retail sale to consumer in the state. No private liquor shops are allowed. All 800 liquor shops are run by the state. Chhattisgarh State Marketing Corporation Limited (CSMCL) centrally procures all the liquor sold in Chhattisgarh.
ED probe has revealed that with the support of the political executives, Anwar Dhebar managed to get a pliant Commissioner and managing director of CSMCL and hired (his) close associates to make the system completely subservient to him.
“He controlled the entire chain of the liquor trade starting from - private distillers, FL-10A license holders, senior officers of excise department, district level excise officers, manpower suppliers, glass bottle makers, hologram makers, cash collection vendor etc and leveraged it to extort maximum amount of bribes/commission. Various other stakeholders also illegally benefited in the process,” said the agency.
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Detailing the modus operandi of the syndicate, ED said the accused persons were benefitting in three ways.
First, a commission of ₹75-150 per case (depending on type of liquor) was charged by the syndicate from the suppliers for each accounted cash procured by CSMCL, ED said. Then, Anwar Dhebar started getting manufactured unaccounted countrymade off-the books liquor and sold it through government run shops.
“This way they could keep the entire sale proceeds without depositing even one rupee in the state exchequer. Duplicate holograms were provided, and duplicate bottles were procured in cash. Liquor was transported directly from distiller to shops bypassing state warehouses. Manpower was trained to sell unaccounted liquor. Entire sale was done in cash. Entire sale was off the books and sale consideration was siphoned off with everyone in the illegal chain getting its share including - distiller, transporter, hologram maker, bottle maker, excise officials including higher echelons there, senior IAS officer (s) and politicians,” ED said.
The ED probe has revealed that between 2019 and 2022, this kind of illegal sale was almost 30-40% of the total liquor sale in the state, which generated ₹1,200 to ₹1,500 crore illegal profits.
The third method used by the accused was an annual commission which was paid by the main distillers for getting distillery license and getting fixed share in the market purchase of CSMCL. “Distillers used to pay bribes as per percentage of market share allotted to them. Procurement was done strictly in this ratio by CSMCL. Commission from FL-10A license holders was also charged from foreign liquor suppliers. These licenses were given to the associates of Anwar Dhebar,” ED said.
The agency has estimated ₹2,000 crore was generated by the syndicate in a short span - from 2019 to 2022.
“Anwar Dhebar is responsible for collection of this entire illegal money, but is not the ultimate beneficiary of this scam. It is established that after deducting a percentage, he had passed on the remaining amounts to his political masters,” ED statement said.
The agency had earlier carried out searches at 35 locations across Chhattisgarh, West Bengal and Delhi including the residential premises of Anwar Dhebar in March. However, he slipped out of a secret trap door and did not participate in the search. He was summoned on seven occasions but did not join the probe.