Delhi liquor policy case: Liquor baron, AAP communications in-charge arrested
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Wednesday arrested Delhi-based liquor baron Sameer Mahendru in connection with a money laundering investigation into the now-scrapped Delhi liquor policy. The arrest comes only a day after the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) booked Vijay Nair, the communications chief of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and a close aide of Manish Sisodia for alleged corruption. Here's more.
- The CBI is probing alleged irregularities by the AAP administration in issuing liquor licenses, on the recommendations of Delhi Lieutenant-Governor (LG) VK Saxena.
- On September 16, the ED raided 40 locations throughout India in connection with the case.
- Notably, the Delhi excise policy has been a cause of contention between the AAP and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led central government.
Mahendru, the Managing Director of Indospirit Groups, was reportedly arrested from his Jor Bagh home on Wednesday morning. He was booked under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) after hours of questioning, NDTV reported. The case is based on a CBI FIR that alleges that Sisodia's aide Arjun Pandey collected Rs. 2 to 4 crore in cash from Mahendru on behalf of Nair.
The ED had raided Mahendru's residence on September 7, along with 34 other locations. The CBI FIR names 15 people, including Deputy-CM Sisodia and three excise department officials, liquor vendors, and distributors, for alleged corruption in the 8-month-long policy. Citing "reliable sources," the CBI had alleged that Nair, Mahendru, and two others, were "actively involved in irregularities in framing and implementation of excise policy."
The CBI alleged that Pandey and one Dinesh Arora, close associates of Sisodia, managed "undue pecuniary advantage" collected from liquor licensees. "Mahendru transferred an amount of one crore to the account of Radha Industries (managed by Arora)...Arun Ramchandra Pillai used to collect undue pecuniary advantage from Sameer Mahendru for onward transmission to accused public servant through Vijay Nair," the FIR said.
Nair, the former chief of entertainment and events company Only Much Louder (OML), was arrested by the CBI on Tuesday. AAP condemned the action on Nair, who has reportedly been the communications in-charge for the party during the 2020 Delhi polls and the 2022 Punjab polls. "He has been arrested because is the communications in-charge for the Assembly Elections in Gujarat," Atishi Marlena said.
The Delhi AAP administration released its excise policy in November 2021, and the ED is currently looking into suspected irregularities in its creation and implementation. Although the policy has now been reversed, the probe is on. In connection with the liquor policy case, the ED had earlier in September searched more than 70 places in Delhi and other cities.
The ED launched its investigation in response to the FIR filed by CBI, which names Sisodia as the key accused in the case. The claims of irregularities in the execution of the now-defunct Delhi liquor policy have been rejected by Sisodia and the AAP. Enforced in November 2021 and scrapped in July 2022, it privatized the sale of alcoholic beverages in Delhi.