HC Asks ED To Respond To Bail Plea of Accused in Delhi Excise Policy-Related Money Laundering Case

The Delhi High Court Wednesday sought the response of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) to a bail plea filed by liquor giant Pernod Ricard’s executive Benoy Babu, arrested in the now scrapped Delhi excise policy-related money laundering case.

Justice Dinesh Kumar Sharma issued notice to the ED on Babu’s petition challenging a trial court’s February 16 order by which his bail plea was dismissed.

Besides Babu, the trial court had also denied bail to accused businessmen Vijay Nair, Abhishek Bonipally, Sameer Mahendru and Aurobindo Pharma’s promoter Sarath P Reddy, saying it was not possible to hold that they will make no attempt to tamper with the evidence if released.

The trial court had said further investigation, including ascertaining the role of other persons involved in commission of the alleged offences and to trace the complete trail of ill-gotten money, was still pending.

Babu was arrested by the ED in November last year.

Regarding Babu, the trial court had said the oral and documentary evidence suggested he was the brain behind the decision taken by the accused company, Pernod Ricard, for furnishing corporate guarantees of Rs 200 crore for the loans availed by other members of the cartel from HSBC Bank.

This, it said, was considered an investment to take control of the retail liquor business and to achieve highest market share in sale of liquor brands by the company.

The money laundering case stems from a CBI FIR which was lodged in the matter after Delhi Lieutenant Governor V K Saxena recommended a CBI probe.

The CBI has alleged that Nair met 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 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.

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