On April 7, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) exposed a Rs 200 crores liquor scam in Punjab Government’s Excise Department demanding a CBI probe into the fraud and arresting the guilty as done in Delhi.
The SAD leader Bikram Singh Majithia accused Punjab’s Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann and Finance Minister Harpal Cheema of lying about the increase in the Excise revenue, claiming that there was a 41 per cent increase when in reality it was about 10.26 per cent.
Bikram Singh Majithia released some documents to the media, which were approved by the Cabinet, including a report on a group of ministers, and give details to expose the Rs 200 crore scam.
He released a document from the Excise Commissioner who formed a committee to examine gaps and lacunae in Punjab’s current excise policy. Furthermore, he said that the transfer of rebate benefit from the manufacturer to the retailer via L-1 was not given to the retailer. He alleged that the L-1 holders are misusing their position to dictate terms to the retailers.
Furthermore, he asserted that the Group of Ministers report and the committee report were a cover-up exercise and said, “after collecting Rs 28 crore from L-1 holders last year, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) Government has increased projected deposits Rs 150 crore for this year. This has happened due to the crackdown in Delhi which has led to the arrest of Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia who is also the architect of the Punjab excise policy.”
He added, “Now suddenly, the AAP government had realised in its own words that there should be a rationale while deciding the margin of L-1 holders backed by sound economic principles.”
Furthermore, he alleged that the AAP Government is attempting to evade cases and arrest, and said that it and its officials could not escape responsibility for looting the State’s exchequer last year. He alleged that the loot was around Rs 200 crore and asserted that it should be investigated.
He also revealed that two main liquor contractors of Punjab, Aman Dhali and Tushar Chopra, are under investigation in the Delhi Liquor Scam and Aman Dhali is behind bars.
Furthermore, he alleged that Bhagwant Mann followed AAP high command’s dictum and reduced the number of L-1 license holders from 74 to 7. He alleged that this was done to create a monopoly and that the increase in profit from 5 percent to 10 per cent has resulted in huge profits for L-1 license holders. He alleged, “It is obvious that kickbacks were paid to AAP functionaries to the detriment of the state.”
Delhi Liquor Scam: Court denies bail to Manish Sisodia
On March 31, a Delhi Court denied bail to Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader and Delhi’s former Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia in the Delhi Liquor Scam case. The Court said Manish Sisodia can “prima facie be held to be architect of the said criminal conspiracy.”
The Special Judge MK Nagpal observed that “The payment of advance kickbacks of around Rs. 90-100 crores was meant for him and his other colleagues in the GNCTD and Rs. 20-30 crores out of the above are found to have been routed through the co-accused.” Furthermore, the Court added, “in turn, certain provisions of the excise policy were permitted to be tweaked and manipulated by the applicant to protect and preserve the interests of South liquor lobby and to ensure repayment of the kickbacks to the said lobby.”
The Court noted that there is sufficient evidence to show that Manish Sisodia “was also instrumental in getting surrendered the L-1 licence of M/S Mahadev Liquors by extending threats through the approver Dinesh Arora and the co-accused Amit Arora and by forcing closure of certain manufacturing units of the said licensee and some other persons related to owners thereof by exercising influence upon the Excise department of Punjab, where also AAP was ruling, and this was done as the said licensee was not acceding to the demands for payment of bribe equivalent to 6 per cent of their profit margin, out of 12 per cent profit margin kept for them under the above said excise policy.”
The Court noted, “formulation of a favourable policy for them was being ensured at every cost and a cartel was permitted to be formed to achieve monopoly in sale of certain liquor brands of favoured manufacturers and it was permitted to be done against very objectives of the policy,” and therefore, the Court observed that Manish Sisodia can prima facie be held to be architect of the said criminal conspiracy.
The Court concluded, “this court is not inclined to release the applicant on bail at this stage of investigation of the case as his release may adversely affect the ongoing investigation and will also seriously hamper the progress thereof. Therefore, this bail application filed on behalf of the applicant is being dismissed.”