The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has arrested hotelier Nitesh Purohit and businessman Trilok Singh Dhillon in the liquor scam of Chhattisgarh, prompting Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel to charge that the agency is out to implicate him in the matter.

The arrest comes after the ED conducted searches at various locations of hawala operators and entities on suspicion of laying hands on proceeds of liqour scam. During the search, movable properties worth ₹28 crore suspected to be proceeds of crime have been unearthed and seized, officially said the ED.

Interestingly, while searching Dhillion’s premises, stated the ED, illegal surveillance was mounted on their operation with the help of aerial drone. Of the total ₹28 crore seized, FDs of ₹27.5 crore is in the name of his firms which are involved in money laundering and another ₹52 lakh was unaccounted cash. Dhillion, who has been accused of collecting and transporting the proceeds of money laundering in the liqour scam, was arrested on Thursday and handed over four days of ED custody by the PMLA Special Court of Raipur. Purohit was picked up by the agency on Wednesday and will remain in their custody till April 15.

Speaking to media in Raipur, Chhattigarh CM Bhupesh Baghel lashed out at the government for what he alleged for foisting “fake cases” against them. “Fake cases are being made, people are being threatened, and now, they are trying to link my name to the scam. Their main agenda is to defame the ruling party because BJP is unable to survive in Chhattisgarh. That’s why BJP is misusing the ED,” Baghel charged.

Facets of corruption

The agency is probing liqour scam that thrived over a period of four years since 2019. The various facets of alleged corruption being probed are, as per the ED, “ Bribe was collected from the distillers per case basis of liquor procured from the distillers by the CSMCL (State body for purchase and sale of liquor).“ Secondly, “sale of unaccounted kacha off-the-books country liquor. In this case, not even ₹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,” alleged the ED.

Another root of corruption, the ED charged was “bribes taken from distillers to allow them to make a cartel and have fixed market share. This cartel was exclusively supplier Chhatishgarh”.

Finally, ED accused the State of accepting “commission from FL-10A license holders who were introduced to earn kickback/ illegal gratification from them in foreign liquor segment also.”

Money laundering

ED investigation has revealed that Nitesh Purohit, promoter of Raipur-based Giriraj hotel and a close associate of Anwar Dhebar, was involved in the handling and movement of illegally collected cash from the liqour business. Purohit was allegedly transporting cash as per the instructions of Anwar Dhebar, who was arrested on May 10 and is now in ED custody till May 15. Anwar is the elder brother of Raipur Mayor and Congress leader Aijaz Dhebar.

It has emerged in probe, alleged ED, that Trilok Singh Dhillon was a prime beneficiary of proceeds of crime committed through a classic mode of money laundering. “He has willingly and knowingly allowed his bank accounts and firms to be used for layering of large amount of proceeds of crime. Without any reasonable explanation, he has taken funds through banking channels from the FL-10A license holders, falsely showing as unsecured loan and kept as FD,” revealed the agency.

“He has also taken kickbacks from major country liquor suppliers in the guise of business transactions and kept the money with him. The underlying business transactions shown have been found to be completely bogus,” pointed out ED.