The ED on Friday launched fresh raids at about 40 locations across the country as part of a money laundering investigation into alleged irregularities in the now scrapped Delhi Excise Policy, official sources said.
The searches are being conducted at premises linked to liquor businessmen, distributors and supply chain networks in Nellore and some other cities in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Delhi-NCR, they said.
The action started early morning with agency teams being escorted by police personnel at the locations being searched by them.
This is the second round of raids by the federal agency in this case after it first conducted searches on September 6 at about 40 locations across the country including that of some Punjab government excise department officers.
The policy implemented from November 17, 2021 was scrapped by the Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal government in July this year following a CBI probe recommended by Delhi LG V K Saxena into its implementation.
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) case of money laundering in the excise policy stems from a CBI FIR in which Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia and some Delhi government bureaucrats have been named as accused.
The CBI had conducted raids in the case on August 19, covering the Delhi residences of Sisodia (50), IAS officer and former Delhi excise commissioner Arava Gopi Krishna, and 19 other locations across seven states and Union Territories.
Sisodia holds multiple portfolios in the Arvind Kejriwal-led Delhi government including excise and education.
The ED is probing if alleged irregularities were done in the formulation and execution of the Delhi Excise Policy and if some alleged ”proceeds of crime”, in terms of tainted money, was generated by the accused.
The agency is also expected to question AAP leader and minister Satyendar Jain, lodged in Tihar jail, in connection with this case on Friday after it obtained permission from a local court to do so.
Jain was arrested by the ED on May 30 in another criminal case filed under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) linked to alleged hawala dealings.
The liquor scheme came under the scanner after Delhi LG Saxena recommended a CBI probe into the alleged irregularities in the implementation of Delhi’s Excise Policy 2021-22. He had also suspended 11 excise officials in the matter. Sisodia too demanded a CBI probe into the alleged irregularities in the policy.
The CBI inquiry was recommended on the findings of the Delhi chief secretary’s report filed in July showing prima facie violations of the GNCTD Act 1991, Transaction of Business Rules (ToBR)-1993, Delhi Excise Act-2009 and Delhi Excise Rules-2010, officials said.
According to officials, the chief secretary’s report had shown prima facie violations, including ”deliberate and gross procedural lapses”, to provide post-tender ”undue benefits to liquor licensees” through the policy. It is alleged that undue financial favours were extended to liquor licensees after the tenders were awarded, causing loss to the exchequer.
The excise department gave a waiver of Rs 144.36 crore to the licensees on the tendered licence fee citing COVID-19, sources had claimed. They added that it also refunded the earnest money of Rs 30 crore to the lowest bidder for the licence of the airport zone when it failed to obtain a no-objection certificate (NOC) from airport authorities.
”It was in gross violation of rule 48(11)(b) of the Delhi Excise Rules, 2010, which clearly stipulates that the successful bidder must complete all formalities for the grant of the licence, failing which all deposits made by him shall stand forfeited to the government,” a source said.
The Excise Policy 2021-22, formulated on the basis of an expert committee report, was implemented on November 17 last year and retail licences were issued under it to private bidders for 849 vends across the city, divided into 32 zones.
The BJP on Thursday shared a ‘sting operation’ video to claim that the AAP government framed its excise policy to help a select few and used the money earned through alleged corruption to fund its campaigns in Goa and Punjab assembly polls.
It showed the video at a press conference in which a person linked to liquor trade is claiming that the Kejriwal government deliberately kept smaller players out of its ”tailor-made” excise policy to help a few persons monopolise the market.
The AAP has refuted allegations of irregularities and corruption in the implementation of the Excise Policy 2021-22.