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The Hindu
The Hindu
Shubhomoy Sikdar

ED alleges ₹2,000 crore liquor scam in Chhattisgarh; says money used for electioneering after arresting Congress mayor’s brother

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Saturday told a court that more than ₹2,000 crore of corruption money had been generated by a syndicate “comprising high-level State government officials, private persons and Political Executives of the State government” through an alleged liquor scam in Chhattisgarh.

Moving the remand application of Anwar Dhebar, a brother of Raipur mayor Aijaz Dhebar who was arrested on Saturday, the ED called him one of the two kingpins of the alleged syndicate [the other being IAS Officer Anil Tuteja, a co accused in the money laundering case], and its “main collection agent and front man”.

In its application, the agency claimed that after paying the distillers and local excise officers, Mr. Anwar Dhebar took the maximum remaining amount and after deducting a share of 15% meant for himself and Anil Tuteja, IAS, he used to supply the remaining to politicians “as per the directions from the highest Political Executives of the State”.

Massive loss

It also said that the money generated by the alleged scam was used for electioneering and the “loot has caused a massive loss to the State Exchequer”. It added that the “illegally earned proceeds of the crime have been invested in [the] UAE in order to alienate the same” and that interrogation of Mr. Dhebar was necessary to unearth the proceeds of the crime which are parked abroad.  

“Mr. Anwar Dhebar, brother of the Mayor of Raipur, was the main collection agent and front man of this syndicate. He is a strongman and one of his brothers is a convicted accused in a murder case being investigated by the CBI. Mr. Anwar Dhebar ran the entire syndicate on the ground as per instructions from the higher powers,” the application read.

Mayor Aijaz Dhebar, who is from the ruling Congress party in the State, is one of the Congressmen whose personal bungalow was raided by the ED officials earlier this year in connection with an alleged coal levy scam.

Stating that the alleged syndicate made its money through illegal commissions, sale off the record unaccounted country liquor and annual commission paid to allow distillers to operate in the State, the agency said that a change in the State government [in 2018] led to a change in the management of the State-run Chhattisgarh State Marketing Corporation Limited (CSMCL) [that controls the sale and supply of liquor] became the “tool in the hands of the syndicate”.

The appointment of Arunpati Tripathi, another co-accused in the case, as the head of CSMCL was also an action taken in order to completely hijack the administration of the excise department, the agency claimed.

The ED’s ECIR in the case was filed last year after the Income Tax filed a prosecution complaint in Delhi’s Tis Hazari court against Mr. Tuteja and others.

4-day custody

While the agency had asked for a 14-day custody for Mr. Dhebar, his lawyers opposed the plea and said that the allegations against their client were politically motivated and that his custodial interrogation would amount to illegal detention.

“We told the court that in the IT Department’s complaint only 120 B (Criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code was a scheduled offence. On April 6, 2023, the Delhi court had taken cognisance of legal provisions that are not scheduled offence and hence PMLA is not attracted. The Honorable Supreme Court has also given an order that no coercive action should be taken against Mr. Tuteja who is one of the accused,” said Faisal Rizvi, one of the lawyers representing Mr. Dhebar.

The court granted four days’ custody to the ED after hearing the arguments from both sides.

Earlier, Mr. Dhebar was taken into custody under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) from a Raipur hotel in the morning.

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