A private firm allegedly paid Rs 30 lakh as bribe to secure a wholesale liquor licence from the Delhi government, made Rs 1,333 crore in sales in 13 months, and a profit of Rs 192.8 crore in just eight months, before transferring Rs 100 crore to Delhi’s ruling Aam Aadmi Party as kickbacks. Rs 33 crore was allegedly also sent to Arun Pillai, the reported frontman of Bharat Rashtra Samithi leader K Kavitha – the daughter of poll-bound Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao.
This is a summary of the Enforcement Directorate and Central Bureau of Investigation’s cases against the AAP in the Delhi liquor policy scam that the agencies claim caused a loss of Rs 2,873 crore to the Delhi government
The party and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal have strenuously denied all allegations and repeatedly pointed out that “more than 1,000 raids” had failed to find any evidence of wrongdoing.
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Controversy over the revised policy erupted in July last year after a Delhi government official red-flagged “undue benefits” to liquor licence winners and a Rs 144 crore rebate during the pandemic. A CBI inquiry authorised by Delhi Lieutenant Governor VK Saxena snowballed into a larger probe by the ED, and the liquor policy scam has since haunted the AAP.
“Conspiracy To Enrich”, Claims CBI
The scam, the CBI alleges, began in June 2021 with a group of businessmen conspiring in Hyderabad to “enrich themselves” and their associates by using the Delhi government’s new liquor policy.
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The key figures in that group have been named as Vijay Nair, Abhishek Boinpally, Arun Pillai, and Sameer Mahendru. The CBI claims Mr Nair – who was arrested in September last year – met Mr Boinpally and Mr Pillai. The three allegedly agreed that a sum of Rs 20 to 30 crore would be sent as “upfront money” to secure liquor licences from the Delhi government.
The group allegedly further agreed the sum would be returned to Mr Boinpally as a “65 per cent partnership” in the name of Arun Pillai – whom the ED claims represented a liquor cartel linked to Telangana politician K Kavitha – in Indospirit Group, a firm owned by Mr Mahendru. A further element of this alleged conspiracy is that half of the 12 per cent profit margin listed in the (now-scrapped) Delhi government liquor policy would be split between Mr Nair and Mr Boinpally.
The agreed Rs 20-30 crore was sent via hawala channels and this transfer was coordinated by Dinesh Arora, who has since turned approver in this case, the CBI has told the court. Mr Arora is also the link to AAP leader Sanjay Singh’s arrest last night. Mr Arora claimed that it was the Rajya Sabha MP who introduced him to Manish Sisodia.
Delhi Government Clears Licence
The CBI has claimed the AAP government had received complaints against Indospirits but its Excise Department – headed then by Mr Sisodia – nevertheless approved its licence request. And it was for this the alleged bribe of Rs 30 lakh was paid.
The CBI has also claimed Mr Nair was contacted, via Mr Arora, to clear the licence award.
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According to the CBI, the licence was awarded on November 5, 2021, and till September 2022, Indospirits made total sales of Rs 1,333 crore and a net profit of Rs 68 crore.
Rs 192.8 Crore Profit In 8 Months
According to the ED, Indospirits made a profit of Rs 192.8 in just eight months. Of this, Rs 100 crore was paid to the AAP and this money, the ED claims, was used in last year’s Goa Assembly election. Rs 33 crore was allegedly paid to Arun Pillai.
The ED also claims a 32.5 per cent stake in Indospirits was held by Mugunta Srinivasulu Reddy, who is a Lok Sabha MP from Andhra Pradesh’s ruling YSR Congress Party. Mr Reddy allegedly secured two retail licences, according to the Enforcement Directorate, which claims he, Sarath Reddy (who held five) and Telangana lawmaker K Kavitha formed the “South Cartel”.
AAP Leaders Arrested
With this wealth of detail at hand, the CBI and ED have raided, questioned and arrested multiple individuals, including Manish Sisodia, Sanjay Singh, and Vijay Nair, and it is widely expected that, in a historic and unprecedented move, the Aam Aadmi Party itself will be an accused in this case.
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Action against AAP leaders comes as the country preps for a national election next year, and several state polls this year, prompting furious criticism from the opposition, which accuses the ruling BJP of using the CBI and ED to target rival leaders.