Deputy CM Manish Sisodia, 14 others accused in Delhi excise policy case

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Friday searched 31 locations in multiple cities, including the premises of Delhi Deputy Chief Minister and former excise officials.

The action follows a criminal case registered against Sisodia and 14 others on Wednesday for alleged irregularities in framing and implementing the excise policy, now withdrawn.

The initiated investigation on the direction of the Ministry of Home Affairs.

The Delhi government had implemented the policy last year in November. By that the entire liquor trade was handed over to the private sector.

The federal agency has named, besides Sisodia, three former excise commissioners and 10 liquor licensees and their associates “accused persons” in the first information report (FIR).

“It was alleged that irregularities were committed including in modifications in excise policy of 2021-22, extending undue favours to the licensees, waiver/reduction in licence fee, extension of the L-1 licence without approval, among other charges,” a official said.

The agency alleged the illegal gains on account of these acts were diverted to public servants by private parties and false entries in their books of accounts were made.

“Searches are being conducted since Friday morning at 31 locations including in Delhi, Gurugram, Chandigarh, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Lucknow, and Bengaluru,” the said.

Incriminating documents, articles, digital records, etc were found, it said.

According to the FIR, Sisodia, then commissioner (excise) Arva Gopi Krishna, along with two former deputy and assistant commissioners, Anand Tiwari and Pankaj Bhatnagar, were instrumental in recommending and taking decisions pertaining to the excise policy for 2021-22 without approval from a competent authority to extend undue favours to the licensees “post tender”.

The FIR has cited a complaint that alleged Vijay Nair, former chief executive officer 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, owner of Indospirit, too were involved in wrong-doing.

The FIR named all of them “accused”.

It further said some of the L-1 licence holders issued credit notes to retail vendors with an ab initio intention to divert the funds as undue pecuniary advantage to public servants.

They showed false entries in their books.

Amit Arora, director of Buddy Retail, Gurugram, too is an “accused”, the FIR noted.

Explaining the modus operandi, the CBI in the report said Mahendru transferred Rs 1 crore to the account of Radha Industries, which is managed by Dinesh Arora.

A person named Arun Ramchandra Pillai used to collect money from Mahendru to give public servants through Nair.

Another person named Arjun Pandey, said to be Sisodia’s associate, once collected Rs 2-4 crore from Mahendru on behalf of Nair.

“Source has further informed that Mahadev Liquors, a proprietorship firm, was granted L-1 licence. Sunny Marwah is the authorised signatory of the firm. He is also director in companies/firms being managed by family of Late Ponty Chadha,” the report alleged.

“Marwah is in close contact with former excise commissioners and has been regularly giving some monetary advantage to them,” it noted.

Lieutenant Governor Vinai Kumar Saxena alleged procedural lapses and possible irregularities in the policy.

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