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ED arrests Aurobindo Pharma’s Sarath Reddy and Benoy Babu of Pernod Ricard in Delhi liquor policy case

This is the second arrest by ED in the case. It had earlier arrested Sameer Mahendru of Indospirit group in the case. Recently, it also raided the residence of Sisodia's PA and questioned him.

Sarath Reddy and Benoy Babu (Credits: Aurobindo Pharma's website/Linkedin)

The Enforcement Directorate Thursday arrested Sarath Reddy, Director, Aurobindo Pharma, and Benoy Babu, General Manager, International Brands, Pernod Ricard in connection with its money laundering probe into the alleged irregularities in the now-scrapped liquor policy of the Delhi Government.

ED sources said Reddy was instrumental in the cartelisation of licenses and played a role in moving alleged kickbacks in the entire liquor licensing process. Babu, the sources added, was part of the cartelisation process.

“Of the 31 licenses, Babu gave away 29 licenses to retailers. We have also found the draft of Delhi liquor policy in his email. Liquor licenses were given out to a select few deliberately,” an ED official said.

Aurobindo Pharma is a major player in the generic drugs market globally and Pernod Ricard markets premium liquor brands such as Glenlivet.

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Reddy had earlier been questioned twice by the central agency in the case in which Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia has been named the prime accused.

Three people have been arrested by ED in the case so far. It had earlier arrested Sameer Mahendru of Indospirit group in the case. Recently, it also raided the residence of Sisodia’s PA and questioned him.

The ED case, which was registered on September, is based on a CBI FIR filed in August. The CBI had booked Manish Sisodia, three excise department officials, and several vendors and distributors among the 15 accused it had arraigned in its FIR.

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The CBI FIR had stated: “Praveen Kumar Rai, Director, MHA… has conveyed directions of the competent authority for enquiry into the matter of irregularities in framing and implementation of the excise policy of GNCTD of Delhi for the year 2021-22 by Central Bureau of Investigation. He has also forwarded a letter of L-G Vinai Kumar Saxena alleging irregularities in framing and implementation of the excise policy.”

“The OM is enclosed herewith, which discloses that Manish Sisodia, Deputy CM; Arava Gopi Krishna, then Commissioner (Excise); Anand Tiwari, then Deputy Commissioner (Excise); and Pankaj Bhatnagar, Assistant Commissioner (Excise); Anand Tiwari, then Deputy Commissioner (Excise); and Pankaj Bhatnagar, Assistant Commissioner (Excise) were instrumental in recommending and taking decisions pertaining to excise policy for the year 2021-22 without the approval of competent authority with an intention to extend undue favours to the licensee post tender,” it added.

The CBI also said in its FIR citing ‘reliable sources’ who it said have revealed that Vijay Nair, Manoj Rai, an ex-employee of Pernod Ricard, the owner of Brindco Spirits Amandeep Dhal, and Mahendru are “actively involved in irregularities in framing and implementation of excise policy”.

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“Source further revealed that some of the L-1 licence holders are issuing credit notes to retail vendors with an ab-initio intention to divert the funds as an undue pecuniary advantage to public servants. In furtherance to this, they are showing false entries in their books of accounts to keep their record straight. Source further revealed that Amit Arora, director of Buddy Retail Pvt Limited, Gurgaon; Dinesh Arora and Arjun Pandey are close associates of Manish Sisodia and are actively involved in managing and diverting the undue pecuniary advantage collected from liquor licensees to accused public servants,” it added.

“Source further revealed that Sameer Mahendru, MD, Indospirit, has transferred an amount of one crore to the account of Radha Industries. Radha Industries is being managed by Dinesh Arora. Source further revealed that Arun Ramchandra Pillai used to collect undue pecuniary advantage from Sameer Mahendru for onward transmission to accused public servant through Vijay Nair.”

First published on: 10-11-2022 at 09:46 IST
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