Delhi Excise ‘Scam’: HC Seeks ED Stand on Bail Plea by Vijay Nair in Money Laundering Case

The Delhi High Court on Wednesday sought the Enforcement Directorate’s stand on the bail plea by Vijay Nair, businessman and Aam Aadmi Party’s communication incharge, in connection with a money laundering case stemming from the alleged Delhi excise policy scam.

Justice Dinesh Kumar Sharma issued notice to the agency on the petition in which Nair said he was only the media and communications in charge of AAP and was not involved in the drafting, framing or implementation of the excise policy in any manner and that he was being “victimised” for his political affiliation.

The trial court had refused to grant bail to Nair and four other accused– Sameer Mahendru, Sharath Reddy, Abhishek Boinpally and Benoy Babu– on February 16 while noting further investigation was still pending and it was not possible to hold that they would make no attempt to tamper with the evidence if released.

In his bail plea before the high court, 38-year-old Nair said the trial court “wrongfully and illegally” refused to grant him relief and that the allegations against him are wrong, false and without any basis.

The petition asserted his arrest on November 13 last year was completely illegal and “appears to be motivated by extraneous considerations” given that the Special Court was expected to pronounce orders on his bail plea in the corruption case being probed by the CBI.

“Petitioner is being victimised on account of his political affiliation and there is no merit whatsoever in the FIR or ostensibly the ECIR (ED’s version of FIR) being investigated by the Respondent… The Petitioner is liable to be enlarged on bail and his constitutionally protected freedom of liberty be protected by this Hon’ble Court,” the plea stated.

It claimed the ED has not been able to establish any money trail leading to the petitioner much less to any public servant and loose, uncorroborated allegations cannot constitute the basis of a prosecution.

“The petitioner is only the media and communications in charge of AAP and does not hold any position with the Delhi Government of whatsoever nature and is therefore not involved in the drafting, framing or implementation of the Excise Policy in any manner,” it added.

The money laundering has arisen from a CBI FIR which was lodged after Delhi Lieutenant Governor V K Saxena recommended a CBI probe into the new excise policy in 2021 which was later scrapped.

The CBI has alleged that Nair was involved in meeting the other co-accused and liquor manufacturers as well as distributors at various hotels in Hyderabad, Mumbai and Delhi for arranging “ill-gotten money through hawala operators”.

It has also claimed that Boinpally was part of the meetings and involved in the conspiracy to launder money along with another accused, liquor businessman Sameer Mahendru.

In the money-laundering case, the ED had raided nearly three dozen locations in Delhi and Punjab following the arrest of Mahendru, the managing director of liquor distributor Indospirit Group, which is based in Delhi’s Jor Bagh.

The other accused in the case are former Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, former excise commissioner Arva Gopi Krishna, former deputy commissioner in the excise department Anand Tiwari and former assistant commissioner Pankaj Bhatnagar.

According to the CBI and ED, irregularities were committed while modifying the excise policy and undue favours were extended to the licence holders.

The Delhi government had implemented the excise policy on November 17, 2021, but scrapped it at the end of September 2022 amid allegations of corruption.

While refusing to grant bail to Nair, the trial court had said the oral and documentary evidence brought on record by the ED were enough to infer the existence of a criminal conspiracy between the accused.

Regarding the role of Vijay Nair, the court had observed there was prima facie evidence to show he had emerged as the “sutradhar” (one who holds the strings in a play) of the entire criminal conspiracy that came into existence between various accused persons, some of whom are yet to be identified, in connection with formulation and implementation of the excise policy.

“Though he was only the Media and Communication In-charge of the AAP, but it has been revealed during investigation of this case that he was actually representing the AAP and GNCTD (Delhi government) in different meetings that were held with the stakeholders in liquor business at different places.

“His participation in the meetings in this capacity is to be viewed in light of the facts that he was residing in the official accommodation allotted to a senior minister of the AAP and once he is even alleged to have presented himself as an OSD in the Excise Department of GNCTD and further that none from the Government or AAP officially participated in these meetings,” the trial judge had observed.

The HC will hear matter again in May.

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