SC tells ED not to create fearful atmosphere on probing Chhattisgarh liquor scam

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Supreme Court of India | Photo: Mathrubhumi

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the Enforcement Directorate (ED) not to create an atmosphere of fear when it was apprised by the Chhattisgarh Government that several state excise department officials have been complaining of being threatened and to implicate the Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel in liquor irregularities case.

A bench of Justices S K Kaul and A Amanullah remarks came while hearing an application filed by Chhattisgarh Government seeking to be impleaded as a party in the ongoing petitions.

Chhattisgarh Government, through VMZ Chambers, has filed an application for impleadment to permit the state to be impleaded as party respondent.

Chhattisgarh Government has alleged that several state excise department officials have accused ED of threatening them and their family members with arrest and are "trying to implicate the CM."

Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Chhattisgarh Government, told the top court, "ED is running amok and threatening excise officers."

He further called it a shocking state of affairs.

However, representing ED, Additional Solicitor General S V Raju, rebutted the allegations and said, "The probe agency is conducting a probe into the liquor irregularities."

The court asked ED not to create a fear atmosphere in the excise official and remarked that due to such behaviour, a bonafide cause becomes suspect.

"Chhattisgarh Government has filed an application for impleadment in the petitions filed by some persons challenging the ED probe against them. ED is conducting an investigation into the liquor scam which ran between 2019 to 2022 in which corruption was done in multiple ways. The bribe was collected from the distillers per each case of liquor procured from them by the CSMCL," they said.

ED investigation has revealed that Arun Pati Tripathi through his direct actions at the insistence of Anwar Dhebar, corrupted the entire liquor system of Chhattisgarh to maximize corruption in the department.

He made policy changes in conspiracy with his other colleagues and gave tenders to associates of Anwar Dhebar so that maximum benefits could be taken.

Despite being a senior ITS Officer and MD of CSMCL, he went against the ethos of the functioning of any State Excise Department and used the State-run shops to sell unaccounted kacha liquor.

His complicit actions resulted in massive losses to the State Exchequer and filled the pockets of the beneficiaries of the Liquor Syndicate with more than Rs 2000 Crore in illegal proceeds of crime.

He also received a substantial share in this loot.

"Thus, the very objective of CSMCL to increase the State's revenue and to provide quality controlled liquor to citizens was violated by him for his personal illegal gains," read the official statement.

ED has conducted consequential search operations at locations in Raipur, Bhilai and Mumbai and the searches have resulted in the discovery of 53 acres of land in Naya Raipur having a book value of Rs 21.60 crore acquired by Anwar Dhebar by using proceeds of crime in the name of a JV.

"This property was purchased through a maze of transactions in the name of an associate by routing proceeds of crime acquired from the FL-10A licensee. During recent search proceedings, ED has seized cash worth Rs 20 lacs and multiple incriminating documents," mentioned the official statement.

In searches in Mumbai, unaccounted investments worth around Rs 1 Crore, with a Share trading firm in the name of Arvind Singh and Pinki Singh w/o Arvind Singh were found and the same have been frozen under PMLA.

Earlier, ED had frozen Fixed Deposits worth Rs 27.5 Crore from Trilok Singh Dhillon. Earlier, ED had seized jewellery worth Rs 28 Crore from the house of a Country Liquor Distiller.

Chhattisgarh, last month filed a petition in the Supreme Court challenging the constitutional validity of certain provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) and alleged misuse of investigating agencies against the non-BJP government in the state.


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