Investigations into alleged liquor smuggling by Daman ‘liquor smuggler’ Ramesh Jagubhai Patel alias Michael have found a clear trail of illicit liquor from the union territory into the dry state of Gujarat.
Patel, his wife Bhanu, nephew Sanat and a Surat-based bootlegger, Firoz Saiyed alias Fruitwala, have been booked by the Enforcement Directorate UNDER PMLA in which a prosecution complaint was filed in the Ahmedabad sessions court on Monday.
The central probing agency has found that around 500 trucks loaded with illicit alcohol worth nearly Rs 3-4 crore were smuggled from the union territory to Gujarat every month between 2003 and 2008. It has also tracked liquor smuggling by probing messages sent out on WhatsApp from phones of the accused, and found that liquor worth over Rs 5 crore was received by Saiyed from Patel since 2016 when the new prohibition law was already in force.
Patel and wife Bhanu were among 14 liquor traders arrested after 23 people died of consuming spurious liquor at Vareli village in Surat in September 2016.
The investigating agency, which is already probing another Daman ‘liquor baron’ Pramod Tandel, has found a business nexus between him and Patel. It was found that whenever Patel did not have certain brands of liquor in demand, he sourced them from Tandel. Both are facing probe by the agency under Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). Tandel had been booked last year.
Tandel is the brother of Daman BJP MLA Lalu Patel, while Ramesh’s brother Suresh Patel is the president of Daman district panchayat.
The ED’s probe on Patel has corroborated the nexus before the court where it stated that when certain brands of liquor was not available with them they would “get the same from Laxmanbhai Tandel of Jupiter Distillery and Pramod Tandel.”
The ED probe on Patel is based on the FIR lodged by Surat Police in 2016 which revealed that Patel, his wife, nephew Sanat and others, smuggled Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) meant for sale only in the union territory of Daman to Gujarat. The ED report mentions that “it was revealed in the chargesheet, filed by Surat Police that approximately Rs 200 crore has been deposited in cash during the last three years which appears to have been earned by way of criminal activity.”
Investigations have found that between 2009 and 2016, 23 FIRs were lodged against Patel for alleged liquor smuggling, out of which his wife is a co-accused in eight cases. The Surat Police first tightened the noose around Patel after it intercepted a trailer-truck loaded with a shipping container for ferrying IMFL consignment worth Rs 22.98 lakh in 2016.
Another witness has stated that between July 2016 and October 2016 liquor worth over Rs 6 crore was smuggled by Patel to Gujarat. All these findings are part of the prosecution complaint the ED filed before a special PMLA court in Ahmedabad. The summary of the probe said, “This amount, which is only a tip of the iceberg of the illegal liquor smuggling business of Ramesh Jagubhai Patel, was received by Ramesh Jagubhai Patel, in cash, either directly from bootleggers or through Angadia (courier firms).”
(With Inputs from Kamaal Saiyed in Surat)