VIJAYAWADA/GUNTUR/VISAKHAPATNAM/NELLORE: Liquor vendors across the state are running for cover from Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) raids, seeking anticipatory bail, fleeing their homes and sending their families to relatives’ residences.
The flutter has assumed urgency after the name of excise and prohibition minister Mopidevi Venkata Ramana surfaced in a dhobi list of bribes given by the liquor syndicate in Khammam district Wednesday. In Vijayawada on Wednesday, the local liquor vendors’ ‘Welfare Association’ president Gadde Tirupati Rao and three others sued for anticipatory bail in an ACB court. Similarly, vendors in Vijayawada, Guntur and Visakhapatnam too are approaching the courts for bail.
Right along the eastern seaboard, where the liquor syndicate is entrenched, liquor merchants’ residences buzzed with activity as families packed up, accountants hid their books and vendors consulted lawyers. Many merchants have made themselves scarce. On the other side of the bribe divide, excise and police officials are in tension lest their names appear in bribe lists unearthed by the ACB.
The ACB also upped its probe into the liquor trade. Sleuths of its Vijayawada range led by joint director Satyanarayana questioned syndicate figures Nallabothu Srinivasa Rao and Marri Subba Reddy, and the agency laid its hands on the names of some police and excise personnel and mediapersons who took bribes ranging from `2,500 to `1.2 lakh (see graphic left).
In Vizag, ACB personnel started interrogation of syndicate figures and excise officials from north coastal Andhra arrested on Feb. 28. An assistant commissioner, two circle inspectors and a head constable are among the suspects here apart from three members of the syndicate. A special team of the ACB, led by joint director K Sampath Kumar, is questioning six of the 12 detainees after obtaining their custody from court. Some of them are learnt to have spilled the beans on more bribe recipients, including policemen, excise officials and journalists in Visakhapatnam.
In Nellore, the remand report of one of the arrested suspects recorded that the syndicate offered bribes amounting to `65 lakh to a similar triumvirate between July 6, 2009 and Sept. 30, 2011. While `53.58 lakh was paid to excise officials, `7.39 lakh was doled out to policemen, `2.37 lakh to journalists and `3.99 lakh to others. While not specifying the names of these recipients, ACB stated that Kovvur excise official Vijaya Kumar financed some wine shops in Kovvur town for to the tune of `10 lakh.
Sources said ACB has submitted a 62-page report on bribery by the liquor syndicate. One curiousity of this payment systems is that many of the bribes went to opposition party leaders. As for ruling party leaders, they are the investors in the liquor trade.