New Delhi: The Enforcement Directorate (ED) may initiate a money laundering investigation over the framing and execution of the AAP government’s excise policy, official sources said on Friday after the CBI raided Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia and others in the matter.
The federal agency is understood to be examining details of the CBI case, involvement of various government officials and private individuals and the possible trail of illegal money generated in the process before it files a formal case under the criminal sections of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Friday raided the Delhi residence of Sisodia, 50, that of IAS officer and former Delhi excise commissioner Arava Gopi Krishna and 19 other locations across seven states and Union Territories after it registered an FIR to investigate alleged irregularities in the formulation and execution of the Delhi Excise Policy brought out in November last year.
The policy was scrapped by the Delhi government in July.
Sisodia holds multiple portfolios in the Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal-led Delhi government including that of excise and education.
The scheme came under the scanner after Delhi Lt Governor V K Saxena last month recommended a CBI probe into alleged irregularities in the implementation of the Excise Policy 2021-22.
He also suspended 11 excise officials in the matter. Sisodia too demanded a CBI probe into the alleged irregularities in the policy.
The CBI inquiry was recommended based on the Delhi chief secretary’s report filed in July showing prima facie violations of the GNCTD Act 1991, Transaction of Business Rules (ToBR)-1993, Delhi Excise Act-2009 and Delhi Excise Rules-2010, officials said.
The ED, during its probe, will analyse if individuals and companies who were involved in the policy making and related entities generated any “proceeds of crime under the definition of PMLA” and if there was any possible creation of illegal or benami assets, sources said.
The agency has powers to attach such assets and question, arrest and prosecute those who indulge in the offence of money laundering.
According to officials, the chief secretary’s report had shown prima facie violations, including “deliberate and gross procedural lapses”, to provide post-tender “undue benefits to liquor licensees” through the policy.
It is alleged that undue financial favours were extended to liquor licensees after the tenders were awarded, causing loss to the exchequer.
The excise department gave a waiver of Rs 144.36 crore to the licensees on the tendered licence fee on the excuse of COVID-19, sources claimed.
They added it also refunded the earnest money of Rs 30 crore to the lowest bidder for the licence of the airport zone when it failed to obtain a no-objection certificate (NOC) from airport authorities.
“It was in gross violation of rule 48(11)(b) of the Delhi Excise Rules, 2010, which clearly stipulates that the successful bidder must complete all formalities for the grant of the licence, failing which all deposits made by him shall stand forfeited to the government,” a source said.
The Excise Policy 2021-22, formulated on the basis of an expert committee report, was implemented from November 17 last year and retail licences were issued under it to private bidders for 849 vends across the city, divided into 32 zones.