The Enforcement Directorate (ED) is expected to press money laundering charges against its two officers and some private individuals who were recently booked by the CBI in a bribery case linked to an accused arrested in the alleged Delhi liquor policy scam, official sources said Tuesday.
ED officials Pawan Khatri and Nitesh Kohar, chartered accountant (CA) Praveen Kumar Vats, Air India assistant general manager (AGM) Deepak Sangwan, CEO of Claridges Hotels and Resorts Vikramaditya, Amandeep Dhall, owner of liquor company Brindco Sales who was arrested in the Delhi liquor policy case, and his father Birender Pal Singh, have been named as accused by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in its FIR filed on August 25.
The CBI had acted on a complaint sent by the ED on August 8.
While Khatri is an Assistant Director rank officer of the ED working in its Delhi zone office, Kohar is an upper division clerk (UDC) with the federal anti-money laundering agency at its headquarters here and both were not part of the team probing the Delhi liquor policy case.
Amandeep Dhall was arrested by the ED on March 1 in the alleged Delhi liquor policy scam. It is alleged that Dhall's father paid Rs 5 crore "bribe" to Vats in tranches of Rs 50 lakh from December 2022 onwards so that Amandeep Dhall is "protected from arrest and being made an accused" in the Delhi excise policy case.
Official sources said the agency will probe these accused on money laundering charges after it files a PMLA case against them by taking cognisance of the latest CBI FIR.
A preliminary investigation has shown that the two accused ED officials were allegedly indulging in illegal activities. The decision to refer the matter to the CBI for action under the Prevention of Corruption Act was taken after seeking approval from the head of the organisation (ED Director Sanjay Kumar Mishra), the sources said.
It is suspected that the accused claimed and used the names of senior officials probing the liquor policy case to allegedly extort the bribe.
The agency may suspend the two officers once the CBI probe progresses and the ED may also write to the employers of two other accused - the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) for CA Vats and Air India for Sangwan - so that appropriate action can be taken against them under service rules, the sources indicated.
The ED acted after it got "source information" against these accused and about their meetings at a 'pan' shop located near the luxury Claridges hotel in central Delhi and a nearby 'Haldiram' snacks shop.
It raided the premises of all the accused, except Vikramaditya, on July 4-5 and seized Rs 2,19,80,000 (over Rs 2.19 crore) cash (part of the total Rs 5 crore alleged bribe amount), jewellery worth Rs 1,90,64,400 and a BMW car (registration DL3C CQ 2239) from the premises of Vats.
Bank deposits worth Rs 2.26 crore were also frozen under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), the sources said.
ED officials recovered 99 pages of a supplementary charge sheet, that was filed by the agency on January 6 in the Delhi liquor policy case, from the premises of Sangwan and this indicates he was "involved" in taking bribes in the names of senior ED officials.
It also seized a "note" on this liquor policy money laundering-related matter from the residence of Khatri.
The ED, in its initial probe, found that the bribery case began when Amandeep Dhall approached Vikramaditya, seeking help in the excise scam case probed by the anti-money laundering agency, the CBI FIR alleged, adding Vikramaditya introduced him to Vats.
"Praveen Vats informed him (Vikramaditya) that after deducting expenses with ED officials and other expenses, they (Praveen Vats and him) will divide the remaining amount equally. Amandeep Dhall paid an amount of Rs 3 crore to Praveen Vats. After that, in March 2023, Birender Pal Singh informed him that they had paid Rs 5 crore to Praveen Vats," it added.
Vats then tapped Deepak Sangwan, who said he could help Dhall using his contacts in the ED. Sangwan allegedly introduced the CA to Khatri.
The chartered accountant allegedly paid Rs 50 lakh to Sangwan and Khatri at a parking spot behind the ITC Hotel in Vasant Vihar locality in the middle of December 2022, the officials said.
Sangwan had also allegedly demanded Rs 2 crore for getting Dhall's name cleared from the list of accused, but the liquor businessman was arrested on March 1.
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