The Enforcement Directorate is investigating allegations of money laundering. (Representational)
Bribes worth Rs 100 crore were paid for favours involving the now-scrapped Delhi liquor sales policy, in which Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia is an accused, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) claimed on Thursday.
They also claimed to have found that over three dozen VIPs, including Mr Sisodia, allegedly changed as many as 140 mobile phones to destroy digital evidence.
Mr Sisodia, who has been raided multiple times by the agency as well as the CBI in the case, has denied any wrongdoing and says the charges are politically motivated. The raids have found nothing against him, he says.
His boss, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has also vouched for Mr Sisodia, saying that the agencies, which report to the BJP-led government at the centre, have been asked to target leaders of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) before the elections in Gujarat next month.
The Enforcement Directorate’s claims came as it arrested two executives of two private companies on Thursday in a case linked to the liquor sales policy.
The two arrested were Benoy Babu, general manager of liquor company Pernod Ricard, and P Sarath Chandra Reddy, whole-time director and promoter of Aurobindo Pharma. They were taken into custody shortly after midnight.
The agency later produced them before a special court in Delhi, and it sent them to seven days in custody of the Enforcement Directorate, officials said.
In a note to the stock exchange, Aurobindo Pharma Limited said that Reddy is “not in any way connected with the operations of the company or its subsidiaries”.
Besides these two, the Enforcement Directorate had arrested Sameer Mahandru, managing director of liquor manufacturing company Indospirit, in September.
Officers in the agency claimed to have found that Reddy controlled five retail zones, while the rule capped the number at two. Through his network, he controlled almost 30 per cent of the liquor sales in Delhi, they said.
The agency told the court that Reddy collected nearly Rs 100 crore for bribes that were paid to political leaders and officers for favours.
Officials alleged that both the arrested executives were “evasive” during the questioning.
The two were allegedly involved in the drafting of the Delhi excise policy along with government officials and also had a role in the “cartelisation” of the entire network, officials alleged.
The Enforcement Directorate claimed to have recovered a draft of the policy from one of the executives when the premises were searched earlier.
The agency also claimed to have found that investments worth Rs 200 crore in the retail liquor business were made by an entity in violation of the policy directives.
It also informed the court during remand proceedings that the policy was “leaked” to certain liquor manufacturers much before its release.
The Enforcement Directorate’s money laundering case stems from a CBI FIR that had named Manish Sisodia as an accused among others.
The excise scheme came under the scanner after the Delhi Lieutenant Governor recommended a CBI probe into the alleged irregularities in the implementation of the Delhi Excise Policy 2021-22. The Lt Governor had also suspended 11 excise officials.
The ED has questioned AAP MLA Durgesh Pathak and minister Satyendar Jain, currently in jail in another money laundering case, in this case.
The CBI has also arrested two people in this case – Vijay Nair, former CEO of an entertainment business company, and liquor businessman Abhishek Boinpally.
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