Excise policy 'scam': ED attaches Rs 76.54 cr worth assets of accused in money laundering case

NewsDrum Desk
25 Jan 2023

New Delhi, Jan 25 (PTI) Houses located in upscale localities of Delhi and Mumbai, restaurants, 50 vehicles and bank deposits worth Rs 76.54 crore of various accused, including an AAP functionary, an alleged close associate of deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia and an associate of Telangana chief minister's daughter, have been attached in the Delhi excise policy money laundering case, the ED said Wednesday.

It said in a statement that the agency has issued a provisional attachment order, under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), for freezing the properties.  The properties belong to arrested Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) communications in-charge Vijay Nair, Arun Pillai, a Hyderabad-based liquor businessman and a partner in a company called Robin Distilleries LLP whom the ED had said represented the 'south group' alleged cartel linked to Telangana chief minister's MLC daughter Kavitha and others, liquor businessman Sameer Mahandru, his wife Geetika Mahandru and their company Indospirit Group.

The assets of Dinesh Arora, a businessman considered close to Delhi deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia who has been designated as an "approver" in the CBI case and Amit Arora, director of liquor firm Buddy Retail Pvt Limited have also been attached.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is also investigating the alleged irregularities in the Delhi Excise Policy 2021-22 that was scrapped after the Delhi LG sought a probe into it.

The attached assets worth a total Rs 76.54 crore include residential properties worth Rs 35 crore in central Delhi's posh Jor Bagh area owned by Sameer Mahandru and Geetika Mahandru and 50 vehicles worth Rs 10.23 crore owned by the Indospirit Group (Mahandru's business entity).

A residential premise worth Rs 7.68 crore located in 'Magnolias', Gurugram owned by Amit Arora, another such unit worth Rs 1.77 crore located at 'Crescent Bay' in Mumbai's Parel area owned by Vijay Nair and assets valued at Rs 3.18 crore of 'Chica', 'La Roca', 'Unplugged Courtyard' restaurants owned by Dinesh Arora and a land parcel worth Rs 2.25 crore located in Vattinagulapally area of Hyderabad owned by Arun Pillai apart from bank deposits, FDs and other financial instruments worth Rs 14.39 crore have been attached in the case of Delhi Liquor scam, the ED said.

The ED's money laundering stems from a CBI FIR.  Sisodia and other excise officials of the government were named as accused in the CBI and the ED complaints.

"Investigation by ED found that acts of corruption and conspiracy in the formulation and implementation of Delhi Excise Policy 2021-22 led to the loss of at least Rs 2,873 crore to the government exchequer," the agency said.

"Proceeds of crime generated....to the tune of Rs 76.54 crore have been traced so far and have been attached," the agency said.

According to the scheme of the PMLA, the attachment order can be challenged by the accused before an adjudicating authority within six months time.

The ED, till now, has filed two charge sheets or prosecution complaints in this case and has arrested a total of six people.

Those arrested include Vijay Nair, Sameer Mahandru, Amit Arora, Benoy Babu, general manager of leading French wine company Pernod Ricard, P Sarath Chandra Reddy, whole-time director and promoter of Aurobindo Pharma and Hyderabad-based businessman Abhishek Boinpally. All are in judicial custody at present.

The ED earlier informed a court, through the filing of a charge sheet, that the excise policy was allegedly formulated to provide monetary benefits to certain AAP politicians and the accused involved in the case "formed a cartel" with the South group which was controlled by Kavitha and YSRCP MP Magunta Srinivasulu Reddy among others.

Besides Sisodia, who holds the excise portfolio in the Delhi government, the CBI had named the then excise commissioner Arava Gopi Krishna, the then deputy excise commissioner Anand Kumar Tiwari, assistant excise commissioner Pankaj Bhatnagar, nine businessmen and two companies as accused in the FIR filed in August, 2022.

In its FIR, the CBI has alleged that Sisodia and other accused public servants recommended and took decisions pertaining to the Delhi Excise Policy 2021-22 without the approval of competent authority with "an intention to extend undue favours to the licensees post tender."  Sisodia has also been questioned by the CBI in the case.PTI NES  DV DV

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