NEW DELHI: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has listed 15 accused, including Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, in its FIR on the alleged excise scam. The central agency on Friday searched 31 locations, including Sisodia's residence, in connection with its probe into alleged irregularities in the Delhi Excise Policy.
The agency so far has recovered 'incriminating documents, articles, digital records and others', sources said.
The New Indian Express first broke the story of how all was not well with Delhi's new excise policy that had pushed liquor trade into the hands of private players.
Before @NewIndianXpress broke the first story in any media that all is not well with the #DelhiExcisePolicy, there were a few things to take care of. Though @Shahid_Faridi_ had worked on the story for over three weeks, a response from #AAP was critical... https://t.co/DldK6BpcVS— santwanabhattacharya (@santwana99) August 19, 2022
The FIR was registered on the basis of a complaint filed by Praveen Kumar Rai, Director with MHA.
The FIR stated that the Lieutenant Governor VK Saxena’s order discloses that Manish Sisodia, Deputy Chief Minister, Arva Gopi Krishna, the then Commissioner (Excise), Anand Tiwari, the then Deputy Commissioner (Excise), and Pankaj Bhatnagar, Assistant Commissioner (Excise) of Delhi were instrumental in recommending and taking decisions pertaining to excise policy for 2021-22 without approval of competent authority with an intention to extend undue favours to the licencees post tender.
Reliable sources have also revealed that Vijay Nair, former CEO of Only Much Louder, an entertainment and event management company, Manoj Rai, ex-employee of Pernod Ricard, Amandeep Dhal, owner of Brindco Spirits, and Sameer Mahendru, the owner of Indo Spirits are actively involved in irregularities in framing and implementation of the excise policy.
“Source further revealed that some of the L-1 licence holders are issuing credit notes to retail vendors with an ab-initio (from the inception) intention to divert the funds as undue pecuniary advantage to public servants. In furtherance to this, they are showing false entries in their books of accounts to keep their record straight,” the FIR stated.
Source further revealed that Amit Arora, director of Buddy Retail Private Limited, 1402, Tower-15, Vipul Greens, Gurgaon, Haryana, Dinesh Arora Rio Plot No.-139, Ill Floor, Block-A, Gujrawala Town, Phase-I, Delhi, Arjun Pandey are close associates of Manish Sisodia and are actively involved in managing and diverting the undue pecuniary advantage collected from liquor licensees to accused public servants.
Source further revealed that Sameer Mahendru, MD, lndospirits has transferred an amount of Rs 1 crore to Radha Industries. Radha Industries is being managed by Dinesh Arora.
The source further revealed that Arun Ramchandra Pillai used to collect undue pecuniary advantage from Sameer Mahendru, MD of lndospirit, for onward transmission to the accused public servant through Vijay Nair.
“A person named Arjun Pandey has once collected a huge cash amount of about Rs 2-4 crores from Sameer Mahendru on behalf of Vijay Nair,” said the FIR.
“Source has further informed that Mahadev Liquors, a proprietorship firm was granted L-1 License. Sunny Marwah is the authorized signatory of the firm. Sunny Marwah is also a director in companies and firms being managed by the family of Late Ponty Chadha. Source has informed that Sunny Marwah is in close contact with accused public servants and has been regularly giving undue pecuniary advantage to them,” the FIR stated.
Alleged irregularities in the excise policy: What is the case about?
The Excise Policy 2021-22, formulated on the basis of an expert committee report, was implemented from November 17 last year and retail licences were issued under it to private bidders for 849 vends across the city, divided into 32 zones.
Several provisions such as slashing the number of dry days to three from 21 per year, the government's exit from retail liquor sale, allowing bars in hotels, and restaurants to stay open till 3 am (awaiting police permission) and the retail licensees to offer rebates and schemes on alcohol were implemented by the excise department.
However, under the policy, many liquor stores failed to open for being located in non-conforming areas of the city. Several such vends were sealed by municipal corporations for violations of the Master Plan.
Jain was arrested on May 30 by the Enforcement Directorate under provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) and is presently in judicial custody.
It is alleged that Sisodia made changes to the excise policy without the approval of Lieutenant-Governor Anil Baijal, such as allowing a waiver of Rs 144.36 crore on tendered licence fee on account of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The CBI inquiry was recommended on the basis of the Delhi chief secretary's report filed in July, showing prima facie violations of GNCTD Act 1991, Transaction of Business Rules (ToBR)-1993, Delhi Excise Act-2009, and Delhi Excise Rules-2010.
The chief secretary's report stated that Sisodia gave undue benefits to liquor licenses by revising the rates of foreign liquor and removing the levy of import pass fee of Rs 50 per case of beer and this made foreign liquor and beer cheaper for retail, leading to a loss of revenue for the state exchequer.
Thereafter, last month, the Delhi Lieutenant-Governor VK Saxena had recommended CBI to register a case to probe financial irregularities in the mush-hyped excise policy. Saxena also directed Delhi’s Chief Secretary to submit a report detailing the “role of officers and civil servants in its illegal formulation, amendments and implementation.”
After the chief secretary prepared the report, Saxena approved the suspension of 11 officials over "serious lapses" in the implementation of the Excise Policy 2021-22.
The suspended officials included Gopikrishna and deputy excise commissioner Anand Kumar Tiwari. Krishna, a 2012 batch AGMUT-cadre IAS officer, is currently posted in the Union Territory of Dadra Nagar Haveli and Daman Diu. He was transferred from the post of Delhi Excise Commissioner on July 12, 2022. Tiwari, a 2003 batch DANICS officer is currently posted with the Delhi Excise department.
(With PTI inputs)