Saturday, December 9, 2023

Delhi Excise Policy scam: Court rejects bail plea of Vijay Nair arrested under PMLA, says enough evidence to prove guilt

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A local court in Delhi has refused to grant bail to Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Vijay Nair and four others in a case related to the Delhi Excise Policy scam, observing that there was enough incriminating evidence against the accused.

Special Judge M.K. Nagpal of Rouse Avenue Court noted on Thursday that there was enough incriminating evidence to show the entire modus operandi adopted by the accused for commission of offences under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

A case was registered by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) against Nair, Abhishek Boinpally, Sameer Mahendru, Sarath Chandra Reddy and Benoy Babuunder PMLA in connection with the liquor scam.

The Judge noted that it would not be possible to hold that the accused will make no attempt to tamper with the evidence in the case if released on bail. 

Taking in view the serious allegations made by ED that the accused had tried to tamper with evidence by way of destruction or repeated change of their mobile phones, the Judge observed that in case they were released on bail, the accused may again attempt to tamper with the evidence.

The Rouse Avenue Court then said that keeping in view the totality of facts,  circumstances and the above discussion, it had decided not to grant bail to any of of the applicants/accused at this stage of proceedings as the allegations made against them were quite serious and related to the commission of an economic offence of money laundering defined by Section 3 and made punishable by Section 4 of the PMLA. 

The Counsel for the accused argued that the cartel formed among them only amounted to a violation of the Excise policy and the same was not an offence,

The court rejected the arguments made by the lawyer of the accused on the grounds that the formation of the cartel has to be viewed in light of the allegations and evidence for payment of advance kickbacks by the South liquor lobby to the politicians and other public servants in Delhi.

Regarding Nair, Judge Nagpal said that he was the person to whom the alleged kickback amount of Rs 100 crore was transferred or delivered by the South liquor lobby. 

It observed that though Nair was only the Media and Communication Incharge of the AAP, but it was revealed during investigation of this case that he was actually representing the AAP and the GNCTD in different meetings that took place with the stakeholders in liquor business at different places. 

His participation in the meetings in this capacity has to be viewed in light of the facts that he was residing in the official accommodation allotted to a senior Minister of AAP and was once even alleged to have represented himself as an OSD in the Excise Department of GNCTD and further that none from the Government or AAP officially participated in these meetings, noted the Special Judge.

Nair was represented by Senior Advocate Rebecca John, along with Advocates Samudra Sarangi, Alisha Luthra, Nitya Jain and Pravir Singh.

Senior Advocate Siddharth Aggarwal, along with Advocates Dhruv Gupta, Alok Sangwan and Rishabh Goyal, appeared for Sameer Mahandru.

Benoy Babu was represented by Senior Advocate Sidharth Luthra, apart from Advocates Madhav Khurana, Vignaraj Pasayat, Samarth Krishan Luthra and Anmol Kheta.

Senior Advocates Kapil Sibal, Sudhir Nandrajog and Luthra argued for P Sarath Chandra Reddy, assisted by Advocates Mayank Jain, Parmatma Singh, Madhur Jain, Navlendu Kumar and Swastika Kumari.

Abhishek Boinpally was represented by Advocates Shri Singh, Yogesh Raavi, MF Philip and Gurfateh Singh Khosa.

Additional Solicitor General S.V. Raju, along with Special Counsel Zoheb Hossain, Special Public Prosecutor N.K. Matta and Advocates Vivek Gurnani, Sidharth Kaushik and Kavish, represented the ED.

Nair, former CEO of Only Much Louder, was arrested and remanded to five-day custody of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on September 27 last year in connection with alleged irregularities in the implementation of the Delhi Excise Policy.

Delhi Police had lodged a First Information Report (FIR) after Lieutenant Governor Vinai Kumar Saxena recommended a CBI probe into the Delhi Excise Policy 2021-22.

The Delhi government then announced to withdraw the policy.

As per the investigating agencies, Nair and others were actively involved in irregularities in framing and implementation of excise policy. It was alleged that lobbying was done for certain liquor businessmen and the ill-gotten money was transferred through hawala routes as part of a conspiracy. 
The agencies further said that public servants in politics and other people holding different offices and positions in Delhi were bribed by the accused.

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