Liquor businessman Sameer Mahandru, arrested by the Enforcement Directorate in connection with the Delhi excise policy money laundering case, earned Rs 50 crore as “proceeds of crime” in less than a year by violating the provisions of the liquor scheme, the agency told a local court. Mahandru, the managing director of an alcoholic beverages manufacturing company called Indospirit, was taken into custody by the federal agency around 9 am on Wednesday and the court of special judge M K Nagpal later sent him to the Enforcement Directorate custody till October 6. He was questioned by the agency overnight at its headquarters in central Delhi, sources said.
The agency claimed before the court that “proceeds of crime” in crores were generated and “major violations” were done by the accused involved in the case. The excise policy 2021-22 has now been scrapped after the Delhi lieutenant governor ordered a probe into its planning and implementation. “Though the prime object of the said policy was to eliminate the cartelisation between wholesellers and retailers and keeping government control on the highly sensitive liquor trade, but during the course of implementation of policy and due to policy violations, the said objective was intentionally forgotten and it resulted in huge losses to the government exchequer and illegal profits to liquor manufacturers, retailers as well as public servants,” the ED told the court while seeking Mahandru’s remand.
The agency said it was “one of the major objectives of the excise policy that manufactures and retailers have to be different persons and identities, but it has been alleged that the accused (Mahandru) was one of major beneficiaries of these violations as he was not only running a manufacturing unit for alcoholic beverages (Indospirit) but was also given a wholesale licence (L1) and some retail licenses (L7) in the name of his relatives”.
The agency said Indospirit manufactures a wine cooler called ‘Bro Code’ and a Japanese whiskey called ‘Enso’.”It is thus alleged that the accused (Mahandru) had earned an amount of approximately Rs 50 crore as profits of his above manufacturing unit during a period from 17.11.2021 to 31.08.2022 after deduction of taxes, and this entire amount is claimed to be proceeds of crime generated out of the criminal activities…as it is stated to have been earned because of irregularities and violations of the excise policy,” it said.
The ED told the court that it was seeking Mahandru’s custody “to ascertain the exact volume and extent of the laundered proceeds of crime”. The agency said it has undertaken as may as 103 search operations in this case and that it wanted to confront Mahandru with “huge digital and physical records” seized during the raids. The ED said it wants to question the businessman to ascertain the quantum of loss caused to the government exchequer and to identify the complete modus operandi of the offences of this case and to unearth entire proceeds of crime laundered by the accused.
It said it wanted to go to the root of cartelisation and volume of kickbacks alleged to have been paid to the government servants involved in drafting and implementation of the above public policy and the process of laundering of the said amounts.The ED said it filed a money laundering case to probe these alleged irregularities on August 22 after taking cognisance of an August 17 CBI FIR that has named Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia as the accused no. 1 apart from senior bureaucrats of the Delhi government and others.
Mahandru’s lawyers opposed the ED plea for custodial interrogation saying he has deposed before the agency for questioning six times and has disclosed all information known to him.
His lawyers countered the ED’s charge of non-cooperation during questioning saying “simply because the accused had not replied to the questions put by the investigating officer…in a particular manner, it cannot be said he had not cooperated in the investigation.” While granting the custody to the ED, the court directed the agency to get his medical examination done every day, allow meeting with his lawyers for half-an-hour each day during which he can also talk to his mother and wife apart from allowing his family to give him certain homeopathic medicines.