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The Times of India
The Times of India
Rashmi Drolia | TNN

ED uncovers tactics used for Rs 2,000 crore 'liquor scam' in Chhattisgarh

RAIPUR: The Enforcement Directorate, which is investigating the multi-crore "liquor scam" in Chhattisgarh, revealed on Sunday that it has unearthed corruption and money laundering amounting to more than Rs 2,000 crore by a syndicate that controlled and manipulated the entire chain of the liquor trade in the state.

ED claimed that the syndicate levied a commission per case of bottles, manufactured and supplied unaccounted country-made liquor, besides fixing an annual commission for obtaining distillery licenses, and distillers paid bribes as per the percentage of market share allotted to them.

A day after ED made its first arrest of Raipur mayor's brother, Anwar Dhebar, under PMLA 2002 in the alleged liquor scam case, the central agency issued a statement saying that the PMLA investigation revealed an organized crime syndicate led by Anwar Dhebar.

"Though a private citizen, he was backed by and was working for the illegal gratification of high-level political executives and senior bureaucrats. He weaved an elaborate conspiracy and stitched a wide network of persons/entities to execute the scam so that money was illegally collected from every bottle of liquor sold in Chhattisgarh. Revenue from liquor is one of the highest contributors to the state kitty," the ED statement said, adding that Excise Departments are mandated to regulate the supply of liquor, ensure quality liquor to users, prevent hooch tragedies, and earn revenue for the state. But the investigation revealed that the criminal syndicate led by Anwar Dhebar has turned upside down all these objectives.

It further read that the ED had earlier conducted searches at multiple locations in the month of March and had recorded the statements of various persons involved in the process and had collected evidence of unprecedented corruption and money laundering to the tune of Rs 2,000 crore between 2019-2022.

According to the ED statement, the syndicate collected illegal money at three different levels in the state, and it elaborated as follows:

PART-A: A commission of Rs. 75-150 per case (depending on the type of liquor) was fastidiously charged by the syndicate from the suppliers for each accounted cash procured by CSMCL.

PART-B: Anwar Dhebar, in conspiracy with others, started getting manufactured unaccounted country-made kacha off-the-books liquor and selling the same through government-run shops. This way, they could keep the entire sale proceeds without depositing even one rupee in the state exchequer. Duplicate holograms were provided. Duplicate bottles were procured in cash. Liquor was transported directly from the distiller to shops bypassing state warehouses. The entire sale was off the books, and the sale consideration was siphoned off with everyone in the illegal chain getting its share, including the distiller, transporter, hologram maker, bottle maker, excise official, higher echelons of the Excise Dept, Anwar Dhebar, senior IAS officers, and politicians.

ED investigation has revealed that in the years 2019-2020-2021-2022, this kind of illegal sale was almost 30-40% of the total sale of liquor in the state. This generated Rs 1,200-Rs 1,500 crore in illegal profits.

PART-C: This was an annual commission paid by the main distillers for getting a distillery license and a fixed share in the market purchase of CSMCL. Distillers used to pay bribes as per the percentage of market share allotted to them. Procurement was done strictly in this ratio by CSMCL.

Commission from FL-10A License Holders was also charged from Foreign Liquor suppliers. These licenses were given to the associates of Anwar Dhebar, the statement said.

In Chhattisgarh, the state controls all the aspects of the liquor trade from procurement to retail sale to the consumer. No private liquor shops are allowed. All 800 liquor shops are run by the state. Chhattisgarh State Marketing Corporation Limited (CSMCL) centrally procures all the liquor sold in Chhattisgarh. CSMCL issues tenders for - Manpower suppliers who run the shops, Cash Collection Tenders, and selects Bottle Makers & Hologram Makers, ED statement elaborated.

With the support of the political executives, Anwar Dhebar managed to get a pliant commissioner and MD of CSMCL, and hired close associates like Vikas Agarwal, Subbu and Arvind Singh to make the system completely subservient to him, the statement said.

According to the central agency, it is estimated that in total Rs 2000 Crore was generated by the syndicate in a short span from 2019 to 2022. Anwar Dhebar is responsible for collection of this entire illegal money but is not the ultimate beneficiary of this scam. It is established that after deducting a percentage, he had passed on the remaining amounts to his political masters.

"Earlier, ED had conducted search operations at 35 locations across Chhattisgarh, West Bengal and Delhi including the residential premises of Anwar Dhebar. However, he slipped out of a secret trap door and did not participate in the search. He was summoned on 7 occasions but did not join the investigation. He was continuously using Benami SIM Cards, Internet dongles, changing locations and after sustained surveillance was zeroed in on a Hotel room of his close associate. There also, instead of accepting the summons, he again tried to run away from the back door but was caught while escaping by an alert team of ED. He was duly arrested and produced today morning before the PMLA Special Judge of Raipur, who has remanded him to 4 days of ED Custody," ED stated.

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