Delhi Excise Policy: Court Sends Punjab Businessman to 7-Day ED Custody

A Delhi court on Wednesday sent businessman Gautam Malhotra, the son of former SAD MLA and liquor baron Deep Malhotra, to seven-day custody of the Enforcement Directorate which arrested him in a money laundering case related to the alleged Delhi excise scam.

Special judge M K Nagpal sent Malhotra to the ED’s custody for his “detailed and extensive interrogation” after the agency said it needed to quiz him to unearth the larger conspiracy in the case and to find out the money trail.

The judge noted that the accused was part of a cartel formed between liquor manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers in violation of the excise policy as he, being a manufacturer owning or having different units, was also able to get a wholesale licence and two retail zone licences in names of some other entities belonging to or being controlled by him.

The judge observed that there were specific allegations which surfaced during the course of investigation that the accused had generated proceeds of crime to the extent of Rs 2.5 crore and handed it over to co-accused Amit Arora for further being handed over to accused Dinesh Arora, who had now turned approver, for its onward transmission to the AAP leaders through co-accused Vijay Nair and it was done in pursuance of the said conspiracy and out of 12 per cent profit margin fixed for the wholesalers.

The court was told by the probe agency that though the accused joined investigation effectively three times for the purposes of interrogation, he had not cooperated in the investigation in the sense that he has failed to furnish any satisfactory or reasonable explanations to the oral and documentary evidence which surfaced against him.

The agency further submitted that the accused needs to be confronted with digital data and other documentary evidence, which has been seized during the course of 189 search operations conducted so far in this case.

“Hence, in view of the above and totality of facts and circumstances, the accused is being remanded to the custody of ED for a period of seven days i.e. till February 15, 2023 for the purposes of his detailed and extensive interrogation and confrontations and he shall be produced before this court,” the judge said.

He further directed that his interrogation shall be conducted at some place having CCTV coverage in accordance with the guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court and the said CCTV footage shall be preserved.

The court also noted that the investigation in a money laundering case is a continuing one and of complex nature as the investigating agency is burdened with the task of interrogation of so many persons and examination of huge oral and documentary evidence collected during the course of searches conducted by it, “hence, the investigation has to take its time.”

The agency, in its application seeking Malhotra’s 14-day custody, said that he was required to be confronted with other accused persons and documents in the case.

The ED was represented by Special Public Prosecutor N K Matta, along with advocate Mohd Faizan Khan.

Malhotra, promoter of the Oasis group of Punjab, was taken into custody under the criminal sections of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

The ED alleged that the accused was “evasive” in his replies and his role with regard to the charges of cartelisation vis-a-vis the excise policy formulated by the Delhi government is under the radar of the agency.

Malhotra’s liquor manufacturing and distribution business is spread across Punjab and some other regions like Delhi and Uttar Pradesh, officials said. The federal probe agency had raided premises linked to Malhotra’s group last year in Punjab’s Faridkot and some other locations.

The excise policy 2021-22 was scrapped in August last year and the Delhi lieutenant governor later asked the CBI to probe the alleged irregularities.

The ED’s money laundering probe stems from the CBI FIR.

Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia and some excise officials were named as accused in the CBI and the ED complaints.

The ED, till now, has filed two charge sheets or prosecution complaints in this case and has arrested a total of seven people, including Malhotra.

The CBI also arrested a Hyderabad-based chartered accountant (CA), understood to be the auditor of BRS MLC K Kavitha, in connection with the Delhi excise policy case on Tuesday evening, officials said.

The ED has alleged in a charge sheet submitted to the court that a part of the alleged Rs 100 crore “kickbacks” generated in the scrapped Delhi excise policy was “used” in the 2022 Goa assembly election campaign of the Arvind Kejriwal-led party.

“Investigation by ED found that acts of corruption and conspiracy in the formulation and implementation of Delhi Excise Policy 2021-22 led to the loss of at least Rs 2,873 crore to the government exchequer.”

“Proceeds of crime generated…to the tune of Rs 76.54 crore have been traced so far and have been attached,” the agency earlier said.

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