HYDERABAD: The Anti-Corruption Bureau on Friday reported to the ACB court that among the people in the pay of the liquor mafia are politicians, excise officials, policemen and journalists— both print and electronic.
In a 750-page report compiled on the basis of statewide raids on 33 premises belonging to liquor syndicate members, the anti-corruption watchdog agency said that liquor traders round the state have formed syndicates or lobby groups to “coordinate” with enforcement agencies— in other words, remove obstacles to their illegal acts and ensure that officials ignore violations of the provisions of AP Excise Act and Excise Rules such as sale of liquor above the MRP, operating shops beyond the stipulated hours, opening of belt shops, loose sales at the vends, sale of non-duty paid (NDP) liquor and bootleg booze, etc. The ACB scrutiny said there are 6,596 licensed liquor shops/bars in the state. The ACB searches since December 13 covered about 300 licensed shops.
Licensed vendors were learnt to have accreted into informal associations or ‘syndicates’ with each of them headed by a leader with the sole aim of maximising profits from their bids.
The syndicate leaders arranged bribes to public servants and others on a recurrent basis, making systematic entries in the books— duly mentioning the designations of the recipients. A significant amount of money was paid on a recurrent basis to media personnel, the report said.
Another curiosity about the liquor trade unearthed by the agency is that some Prohibition and Excise officials are involved in the trade by way of giving loans to retailers at interest rates ranging from Rs 3 per month to Rs 10. The ACB says it found at least 10 such officials around the state.Some of these public servants moonlighting thus are circle inspectors and some Task Force operatives posted in Coastal Andhra.
The ACB drive against the liquor mafia began with a surprise check in Karimnagar on Dec. 13, 2011. A Tata Victa belonging to some excise officials was intercepted and Rs 3,62,640 cash was seized from it, allegedly the proceeds of a transaction with a liquor cartel. Since then, raids have taken place in Visakhapatnam, Srikakulam, Ongole, Nellore, Warangal, Guntur. Based on information extracted from two liquor vendors during the Dec. 13 raid, ACB raided the residences of excise officials and liquor vendors at 22 places in six districts. According to sources, ACB detectives found promissory notes from these officials and learnt that they were in lieu of loans given to vendors.