ED arrests retired IAS officer in Chhattisgarh liquor scam probe | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

ED arrests retired IAS officer in Chhattisgarh liquor scam probe

ByNeeraj Chauhan
Apr 22, 2024 08:20 AM IST

ED arrests retired IAS officer Anil Tuteja in fresh money laundering probe linked to Chhattisgarh liquor industry. ₹14.41 crore PoC alleged.

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Sunday arrested retired Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer Anil Tuteja in a fresh money laundering probe into the alleged corruption in Chhattisgarh liquor industry, alleging that he was the mastermind who received proceeds of crime (PoC) worth 14.41 crore, people familiar with the development said.

The 2003 batch IAS officer, who retired from the service last year, was arrested at around 3.50 am on Sunday. (Representational image)
The 2003 batch IAS officer, who retired from the service last year, was arrested at around 3.50 am on Sunday. (Representational image)

The 2003 batch IAS officer, who retired from the service last year, was arrested at around 3.50 am on Sunday after he, along with his son Yash, was taken for questioning at the ED’s office in state capital Raipur, officials said, declining to be named. Yash Tuteja was allowed to leave after the interrogation.

The Supreme Court on April 8 quashed the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) proceedings against Tuteja and others in the irregularities worth 2,161 crore, stating that predicate offence was not established. The ED’s previous probe, since 2022, was based on an income-tax complaint and didn’t form part of the scheduled offence, a requirement for the agency to go ahead with money laundering probes.

However, as reported by HT exclusively, a day later on April 9 the ED filed a fresh case in the matter based on a first information report (FIR) filed by Chhattisgarh police on January 17. The fresh ED ECIR (enforcement case information report), which is equivalent to a first information report (FIR), allows it to reinvestigate the charges.

Justifying registration of a new case in same irregularities despite the apex court ruling, an ED officer said, “The Supreme Court in its order did not pass any adverse comments on the investigation carried out by the ED. Hence, given the similarities in the ongoing probe, we called for all the documents, including statements recorded under section 50 of the PMLA by the investigating officer of the previous case.”

On Anil Tuteja’s role, a second ED officer said, “Investigation has revealed that he was indeed in receipt of proceeds of crime amounting to 14.41 crore and was the mastermind of the whole liquor scam.”

“Even though officially he was not part of the excise department of the state of Chhattisgarh, he was constantly involved in the decisions pertaining to the excise department. He was also found discussing excise matters with other co-accused in the matter,” said the second officer.

During his questioning on Saturday night, officials said Anil Tuteja was elusive and uncooperative.

In its fresh ECIR, the ED has named all those 70 accused booked by Chhattisgarh police, including the Tutejas, several Congress leaders, bureaucrats and businessmen. The Chhattisgarh police’s FIR came roughly a month after the Congress was unseated in the state by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the assembly elections.

To be sure, Chhattisgarh police acted on the matter with the reference of the ED, which sent a detailed probe report to local police after the elections.

The controversy originally arose from allegations of corruption within Chhattisgarh’s liquor industry, implicating officials and influential functionaries. The ED alleged there were irregularities between 2019 and 2022, when officials of the state-run liquor retailer, the Chhattisgarh State Marketing Corporation Ltd (CSMCL), took bribes from distillers. The then Congress-led state government accused the BJP-led central government of using the ED to target its leaders. The Centre defended the ED’s actions as upholding the law.

After the government changed, state police filed a fresh FIR, also naming then excise minister Kawasi Lakhma, former special secretary at the department of excise and the managing director of CSMCL, Arun Pati Tripathi, former bureaucrat Vivek Dhandh and Congress leader Anwar Dhebar. The FIR estimated that PoC of around Rs.2,161 crore were generated by the suspects in the alleged case.

Earlier, in its charge sheet filed in the July 2023, which now stands quashed, the ED alleged that Rs.776 crore of the Rs.2,161 crore collected in the Chhattisgarh liquor scam by Anwar Debhar, the prime accused and brother of Aijaz Debhar, went to political executives.

Congress leader and former state chief minister Bhupesh Baghel has said the Supreme Court ruling exposed the Prime Minister Narendra Modi government’s “political misuse” of federal investigative agencies. “Just before the assembly elections, the ED registered a case of liquor scam and gave BJP a campaign weapon. BJP tried to defame the Congress government throughout the elections. Today, the Supreme Court’s decision has made it clear that the BJP was just spreading lies,” he wrote on X (formerly Twitter) on April 8.

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