The Special Enquiry Team looking into the alleged pilferage/ theft of liquor from warehouses/godowns in Haryana, in its report submitted to the state government, has pointed fingers at a prominent liquor group that has its distilleries in Punjab and Haryana and said that although multiple FIRs were registered on charges of illegal movement of liquor brands that the group owns, yet the police or excise department did not initiate any action against the group’s management.
The SET has also annexed at least a dozen FIRs registered in various police stations of Ambala and Kurukshetra and also raised questions on the role of police that why despite disclosures made by the arrested persons, yet the management of the distillery were not asked to join investigation in the said FIRs.
Haryana Home Minister Anil Vij had Thursday said that he has “fully accepted” SET’s report and was “forwarding it to the State Vigilance Bureau for registration of FIR and conducting a thorough investigation”.
The NV group whose distilleries are now under scanner, however, refuted SET’s assertions. “I believe there is some wrong information being transferred from one place to another. As far as NV is concerned, this is a big international group. There may be some people who are doing (these things). They have caught a few local duplicate material and all that. Sometimes they have used NV’s name also. These are small companies who have been making counterfeit products. This is a very clean company. There would always be some people who would like to defame the company. But there is nothing as such on our part,” Praveen Kumar Malviya, president (commercials), NV Group, told The Indian Express.
However, the SET noted in its report:”As far as the investigation of large cases by the police is concerned, the investigation has not been taken to its logical conclusion in respect of many cases. On analysing the reports obtained from the police regarding source and intended destination in cases of FIRs where more than 100 cases (cartons) of liquor was recovered during the period from April 1, 2019 till May 10, 2020, it is noticed that in several cases there is a clear indication that the seized liquor has been sourced from NV distillery, village-Badholi, Naraingarh, District Ambala or NV distillery, Rajpura, District Patiala, Punjab or RS distillery, village Chandrao, Indri, Karnal, but the Investigating Officers have not directed the concerned authorities of the distillery to join the investigation.”
In support of its statement, the SET also annexed 14 FIRs registered at various police stations in Haryana. Of these, in 12 FIRs, SET has mentioned about NV distilleries in Ambala and Rajpura as “the source”, while RS distillery is linked to one FIR and another FIR is there in which no distillery is identified as the source from where the liquor was illegally smuggled out.
“Police, in general, is naming drivers of the confiscated vehicles, those found with the confiscated liquor etc. as accused but except in a few cases, no serious efforts appear to have been made to address the origin of the smuggled liquor and to at least issue notices to the concerned authorities of distilleries to join the investigations in respect of which it was suspected that the liquor has been smuggled out from there. In many cases, the police has reported source of liquor from neighbouring Punjab and district Ambala and in one case district Karnal and the brand name of the smuggled liquor has also been mentioned on the seized liquor but the management of those manufactories or the excise staff posted there have not been made accused or asked to join the investigation,” the SET report mentions.
It adds, “In a few cases, after the constitution of SET, the Investigating Officers have sent notices to the management of distillery. The name of NV distillery is surfacing in many cases again and again. How is it possible to smuggle liquor in a big way without complicity of the management itself or the excise officials posted there…”
When SET wanted to visit NV distillery, their visit too was shelved due to unavailability of Excise and Taxation Commissioner Shekhar Vidyarthi.
“To verify the complaints received in this regard and the correctness of the allegations made in the FIR, SET had decided to visit NV distillery on July 3, 2020 for which Sh. Shekhar Vidyarthi during his interaction on June 27 had verbally agreed to accompany the SET. The fact that NV distillery is involved in smuggling of liquor was expressed by majority of the officers with whom the SET had interacted. However, on July 3, 2020, the visit of SET could not materialise due to telephonic intimation by Sh. Shekhar Vidyarthi few hours before departure, of his pre-occupation,” SET wrote in its report.
Further talking about NV distilleries in its report, the SET wrote, “SET has obtained corroborative evidence regarding possible complicity of NV distillery in cases/FIRs registered by the police. After going through the news reports that Excise and Taxation department, Punjab had carried out physical inspection of the stocks of distilleries in Punjab, information in this regard was sought from Principal Secretary, Excise and Taxation, Punjab vide letter no. 3474 dated June 25, 2020. In response, information has been received vide letter July 27, 2020 that 22,936 number of cases (cartons) were found unaccounted in NV distillery, Rajpura, Punjab. During interaction with the respective Investigating Officers and Superintendents of Police, the SET had suggested them to do the needful to unearth the real mafia behind such smuggling of illegal liquor”.
Responding to the queries about multiple FIRs that SET has annexed in its report (FIRs in which more than 100 cartons of liquor were found being illegally moved) that points fingers towards NV distilleries, Malviya added, “We have also filed FIRs against people that our brand is being made in duplicate. We have copies of those FIRs. A few of the people have been caught also. We also have copies of the FIRs that our brand is being made at different places and being sold in our name.”
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