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regular-article-logo Monday, 27 May 2024

Chhattisgarh: Enforcement Directorate arrests retired IAS officer Tuteja in liquor scam case

The retired IAS officer was questioned and was taken into custody in the early hours of Sunday under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA)

PTI Raipur Published 21.04.24, 07:55 PM
Representational picture.

Representational picture. File picture.

Days after filing a fresh case, the Enforcement Directorate on Sunday arrested retired Chhattisgarh IAS officer Anil Tuteja in connection with a Rs 2,000 crore alleged liquor-scam linked money laundering case in the state, officials said.

The federal agency detained the 2003-batch officer from the Economic Offences Wing (EOW)/Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) office in Raipur on Saturday evening where the bureaucrat and his son Yash Tuteja had gone to record their statements in the same case.

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They were issued a summons by the ED at the EOW/ACB office to join the investigation and record their statements following which they were taken to the central agency's office here.

The retired IAS officer was questioned and was taken into custody in the early hours of Sunday under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). Yash Tuteja was allowed to leave after questioning.

Anil Tuteja was produced before a jurisdictional magistrate that sent him to one-day judicial custody, ED counsel Saurabh Pandey said. He added that the agency had sought a 14-day custody of Tuteja from the magistrate.

However, as the special PMLA court was not working on Sunday, the magistrate court sent him to judicial custody for a day, the lawyer said.

Tuteja will be produced before a special PMLA court on Monday and the ED will seek his remand afresh for custodial interrogation, he said.

The Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer retired from service last year. He was last designated as joint secretary in the industry and commerce department of Chhattisgarh.

The ED had filed a fresh money laundering case in the liquor scam case after the Supreme Court recently quashed its earlier FIR that was based on an Income Tax Department complaint. The apex court ruled that there was no scheduled offence and hence the money laundering case does not stand.

The agency, just before this ruling, had shared details of its probe into the case with the state EOW/ACB seeking registration of a criminal case and once they filed an FIR, the ED registered a new money laundering case taking cognisance of that complaint.

The EOW/ACB registered this FIR on January 17, about a month after the BJP returned to power in the state by defeating the Congress in the assembly polls. It named 70 individuals and companies, including former excise minister Kawasi Lakhma, former chief secretary Vivek Dhand and others.

The ED has estimated the alleged "proceeds of crime" in the case at Rs 2,161 crore.

Money was "illegally" collected from "every" bottle of liquor sold in Chhattisgarh and evidence of "unprecedented" corruption and money laundering of Rs 2,000 crore generated by an alcohol syndicate led by Anwar Dhebar, the elder brother of Raipur Mayor and Congress leader Aijaz Dhebar, has been unearthed, the ED had alleged.

Slamming the BJP government in the state, former chief minister and Congress leader Bhupesh Baghel had earlier claimed that the EOW/ACB action was "politically motivated".

The ED and Income Tax Department have been probing the cases for the last three years and now they have recommended the ACB to register an offence, Baghel had said.

"Earlier the names of several of our party leaders did not come up in the probe but now their names have been mentioned in the (EOW/ACB) FIRs. It has been done to defame them ahead of the Lok Sabha polls," Baghel had told reporters.

Refuting these claims, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Vishnu Deo Sai had said the ED is "an independent agency and it has been doing its job. It has nothing to do with elections." Anwar Dhebar, businessman Arvind Singh and Arunpati Tripathi, an Indian Telecom Service (ITS) officer and special secretary of the excise department, were arrested by the EOW/ACB as part of the January registered FIR.

Anwar Dhebar and Tripathi were arrested by the ED as part of the quashed FIR too.

In the past, the ED had also alleged that bribe was collected from distillers in the state on a per liquor case basis procured from the CSMCL (state body for purchase and sale of liquor) while country liquor was being sold off-the-books.

"In this (country liquor) case, not even Re 1 reached the state exchequer and all the sale proceeds were pocketed by the syndicate. The illegal liquor was sold from state-run shops only," the agency had alleged.

The ED has claimed that bribes were taken from distillers to allow them to make a cartel and have a fixed market share.

"This cartel was exclusively a supplier (of liquor) for the state of Chhattisgarh," the ED said, adding the "commission" was also generated from the sale of foreign liquor in the state.

It alleged the syndicate also "manufactured and sold" illicit liquor in the state entirely on cash with no income tax or excise duty being paid.

"The entire sale consideration was siphoned off with each person getting its share, including distiller, transporter, hologram maker, bottle maker, excise department officials and their higher echelons, Anwar Dhebar, senior IAS officers and politicians.

"ED investigation has found that between the years 2019 and 2022, this kind of illegal sale was almost 30-40 per cent of the total sales of liquor in the state," the probe agency claimed.

It alleged that the commission generated through this illegal sale of liquor was shared "as per the directions from the highest political executives of the state".

Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Telegraph Online staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.

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