Liquor Scam Unveiled: Chhattisgarh State PSU Accused of Illegally Selling Huge Quantities of Liquor.

Liquor Scam Unveiled: Chhattisgarh State PSU Accused of Illegally Selling Huge Quantities of Liquor

In a shocking revelation, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) has exposed a massive liquor scam allegedly orchestrated by a state-owned marketing company in Chhattisgarh. The scam involves the illegal sale of an astounding 40 lakh cases of country liquor, worth approximately Rs 2,000 crore, through its own outlets without any revenue being generated for the exchequer. The ED’s investigation has brought to light several damning details that paint a grim picture of corruption and illicit activities within the state’s liquor industry.

Unrecorded Supply and Fake Holograms
According to the investigation report accessed by The Indian Express, distillers supplied over 40 lakh cases of country liquor to the Chhattisgarh State Marketing Corporation Ltd (CSMCL) during April 2019 and June 2022. Shockingly, these transactions were not recorded in the books of the company, raising serious concerns about accountability and transparency. The liquor bottles, allegedly pasted with fake holograms, were sold through CSMCL outlets to the general public. As a result, the state did not receive any tax revenue from these sales.

Political Denials and Allegations
Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel has vehemently denied all allegations, dismissing the ED’s actions as politically motivated. He has accused the agency of being a tool in the hands of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), attempting to defame the state government. However, ED officials maintain that the evidence suggests a highly organized and lucrative syndicate involving senior bureaucrats, politicians, and officials from the excise department.

The Role of Chhattisgarh State Marketing Corporation Ltd (CSMCL)
The liquor scam unfolded against the backdrop of a policy change in 2017 when the state government, under the leadership of former Chief Minister Raman Singh of the BJP, established CSMCL to retail liquor through its stores. Initially set up with good intentions, the management of CSMCL changed after a new government came into power. The ED alleges that the corporation became a tool in the hands of a syndicate that exploited it to enforce a parallel excise department.

Complicity and Illicit Activities
To ensure the sale of spurious liquor, special holograms were used to certify the authenticity of the bottles. However, investigations revealed that a new company was tasked with producing both genuine and fake holograms. The fake holograms were supplied directly to CSMCL’s managing director, Arunpati Tripathi, who distributed them to the distillers manufacturing country liquor. These fake holograms were then pasted on the bottles before being sold. During the investigation, the ED discovered a transaction in which the hologram-making company paid Rs 50 lakh to another company directly linked to Tripathi’s wife.

Widespread Corruption and Money Laundering
The liquor scam involved a complex network of corruption and money laundering. The ED alleges that each participant in the syndicate received a share of the profits, including the distillers, transporters, hologram makers, bottle makers, excise officials, senior IAS officers, and politicians. Prior to the illegal sale, officials reportedly took an illegal commission of Rs 100 per case, while the cost of production per case was Rs 590. Once the illegal sale began, the distillers no longer had to pay any commission. Instead, a fixed amount of Rs 150 per case was allegedly distributed among key members of the syndicate, district level excise officers, district administration officials, and local police.

Magnitude and Impact of the Scam
The ED claims that the illegal sale of liquor accounted for a significant portion, approximately 30-40%, of all liquor sales in the state. The ED revealed that the syndicate’s operations expanded rapidly, with the number of trucks carrying illegal country liquor rising from around 200 per month in the financial year 2019-20 to approximately 400 per month in 2022-23.

Key Figures Implicated
In its remand application presented to the court, the ED has named several key figures allegedly involved in the scam. Anil Tuteja, a senior IAS officer, currently holding the position of Joint Secretary in the Department of Industry and Commerce has been identified as the “kingpin” of the operation. The ED has produced specific digital evidence indicating the transfer of Rs 14.41 crore from a Congress party leader’s brother Anwar Dheba and Raipur Mayor Aijaz Dhebar, to Tuteja. The evidence also points to the syndicate’s involvement in extorting money within various departments, including the PWD department, horticulture department, and liquor industry.

Three Means of Illegal Gratification
The ED investigation has uncovered three primary methods through which the syndicate earned illicit cash. Firstly, illegal commissions were collected during the legal sale of country liquor. Secondly, there was evidence of cartelization in the sale of Indian-made foreign liquor (IMFL). Lastly, the illegal sale of country liquor emerged as the most significant source of illicit cash flow. This particular modus operandi is unparalleled, as the ED has not encountered a similar setup elsewhere.

The scale and magnitude of this liquor scam in Chhattisgarh are alarming, revealing a deeply entrenched network of corruption and malpractices. The ED’s investigation has shed light on the complicity of individuals at various levels of authority, highlighting the urgent need for accountability, transparency, and stricter regulations within the state’s liquor industry.

It is imperative that appropriate action is taken against all those involved, regardless of their position or influence, to restore public trust and ensure the integrity of the state’s governance. Only by holding the guilty parties accountable and implementing stringent measures can Chhattisgarh overcome this dark chapter and establish a system that prioritizes the welfare of its citizens.

The liquor scam exposed by the Enforcement Directorate in Chhattisgarh implicates the state-owned marketing company, CSMCL, in the illegal sale of an enormous quantity of country liquor. The involvement of high-ranking officials, politicians, and senior bureaucrats has further tainted the state’s reputation. It is crucial that swift and decisive action is taken to dismantle the syndicate, bring the culprits to justice, and restore the faith of the public in the state’s governance and regulatory systems.

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