The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Tuesday arrested Vijay Nair, former chief executive officer of Mumbai-based Only Much Louder, in connection with the Delhi Excise Policy case.
The agency had earlier issued lookout notices against Mr. Nair and seven other private persons accused of irregularities in the Delhi government’s now-withdrawn excise policy.
Among the accused public servants are Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, the then Excise Commissioner Arva Gopi Krishna, Deputy Commissioner Anand Tiwari and Assistant Commissioner Pankaj Bhatnagar.
The others are Manoj Rai, a former employee of Pernod Ricard; Amandeep Dhal, director of Brindco Sales; Sameer Mahendru, managing director of Indospirit Group; director of Buddy Retail Amit Arora, and Dinesh Arora; authorised signatories of Mahadev Liquors Sunny Marwah, Arun Ramchandra Pillai and Arjun Pandey.
The CBI has alleged that irregularities were committed while modifying the Excise Policy, undue favours were extended to licence holders, licence fee was waived or reduced and L-1 licence was extended without the competent authority’s approval. The beneficiaries diverted "illegal" gains to the accused officials and made false entries in their books of accounts to evade detection, it further said.
As alleged, the Excise Department had decided to refund the Earnest Money Deposit of about ₹30 crore to a successful tenderer against the set rules. Even though there was no enabling provision, waiver on tendered licence fee was allowed from December 28, 2021, to January 27, 2022 due to COVID-19.
This allegedly caused a loss of ₹144.36 crore to the exchequer, said the FIR, which has been instituted on a reference from the Union Home Ministry following a recommendation from Delhi Lieutenant-Governor Vinai Kumar Saxena.
Buddy Retail director Mr. Dinesh Arora and Mr. Pandey were identified as close associates of Mr. Sisodia. The CBI has accused them of having managed and diverted the bribes received from the beneficiaries to the public servants.
The FIR further alleged that Mr. Mahendru had transferred about Rs.1 crore to the account of Radha Industries, which is managed by Mr. Dinesh Arora. While Mr. Pillai also received money from Mr. Mahendru to transfer it to an accused public servant through Mr. Nair, Mr. Pandey had collected about ₹2-4 crore from Mr. Mahendru on behalf of Mr. Nair.
Based on the CBI case, the Enforcement Directorate has also launched a money laundering probe against the accused persons and had recently conducted searches in several States.
Nair was threatened, says AAP
The AAP said in a statement that Mr. Nair was pressurised to take Mr. Sisodia’s name when he was called for questioning and when he refused to it, he was threatened to be arrested.
“Vijay Nair is the communication in-charge of AAP. He was responsible for developing and implementing communication strategies in Punjab earlier and Gujarat now. He has nothing to do with the Excise Policy,” the statement said, adding that Mr. Nair’s house was raided twice in last one month but nothing was found.
“This is a part of BJP’s ongoing attempt to crush AAP and obstruct AAP’s Gujarat campaign. The whole country is watching how BJP is completely rattled by AAP’s growing popularity across India. BJP is unable to digest the rapidly growing vote share of AAP in Gujarat. We strongly condemn these unconstitutional and illegal methods being adopted by BJP. All allegations against Vijay Nair and AAP leaders are false and completely baseless,” the AAP statement added.