Published On: Tue, Aug 29th, 2023

CBI books ED official for taking Rs 5 crore bribery in Delhi liquor scam case

New Delhi: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has registered an FIR against Enforcement Directorate (ED) Assistant Director Pawan Khatri in connection with an alleged bribery of Rs 5 crore by liquor businessman Amandeep Dhall to evade action in the excise policy scam case, officials said.

Sangwan allegedly learned that Vats had extorted vast amounts of money from Dhall’s father

Besides the two, the agency has also named assistant general manager of Air India Deepak Sangwan, CEO of Claridges Hotels and Resorts Vikramaditya, chartered accountant Praveen Kumar Vats and two others – Nitesh Kohar, a clerk in the ED, and Dhall’s father Birender Pal Singh, they said.

The CBI has conducted searches at six locations on the premises of the accused after the registration of the FIR, the officials said.

According to sources, neither of the accused ED officers were part of the excise scam case probe but during the searches, materials related to the case were recovered from them.

The central probe agency took over the case on a complaint from the Enforcement Directorate, which alleged that Singh had paid Rs 5 crore bribe to Vats in tranches of Rs 50 lakh from December 2022 onwards to help Dhall in the excise policy case.

The CBI has registered the case under IPC sections 120B (criminal conspiracy) and provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

During the probe into the alleged excise scam, the officials said, the ED received information about massive bribe exchanges in the name of senior agency officers to influence the case.

Based on the information, the agency had conducted searches on July 4 at the premises of the accused and questioned the suspects, which prima facie suggested bribery and corruption by the accused, they added.

The ED searches also resulted in the recovery of Rs 2.19 crore cash (of the total Rs 5 crore) from the premises of Vats and 99 pages of a supplementary complaint filed by it on January 6 in the scam case from Sangwan’s premises, the officials said.

The agency also found the scam case-related documents from the premises of its Assistant Director Khatri, which indicated that he was taking undue interest in the case, the CBI FIR alleged.

The ED, in its initial probe, found that the bribery case started rolling when Amandeep Dhall approached Vikramaditya, seeking help in the excise scam case probed by the anti-money laundering agency, the 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 an assistant general manager in Air India, Deepak Sangwan, who said he could help Dhall using his contacts in the ED. Sangwan allegedly introduced the chartered account to Khatri.

The chartered accountant allegedly paid Rs 50 lakh to Sangwan and Khatri at a parking place 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.

Sangwan met Vats two days after the arrest said the action was ordered from higher authorities where he has no influence, according to the officials.

In June, Sangwan allegedly learned that Vats had extorted vast amounts of money from Dhall’s father, Singh, to get help from the Enforcement Directorate and called the chartered accountant for a meeting, they said.

The ED has alleged that several meetings followed this one, and in some of them, Khatri and Kohar were also present, the FIR said.

In his statement to ED, Sangwan said that in one of the meetings, Vats returned Rs 1 crore to Singh.

The CCTV footage of the meetings collected by the ED shows that Deepak Sangwan, Praveen Vats, Pawan Khatri and Nitesh Kohar met on June 28, followed by a meeting among Sangwan, Vats, Singh and Khatri behind Claridges Hotel the next day when the briefcase was transferred in Singh’s car by Vats, according to the FIR.

Vats corroborated that he had returned Rs 1 crore to Singh on June 29, and Khatri was also present in the meeting. The ED has alleged that from the statements and CCTV footage, it appears that Khatri and Kohar were meeting private persons — Sangwan, Vats, Singh etc — aware of the issue that bribe amount had exchanged hands between Vats and Singh, the officials said.

The agency also alleged that Khatri was present in the meeting when the bag was kept in Singh’s car, but he never informed any senior officer regarding these, they added.

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