The Enforcement Directorate (ED) of Surat has sealed at least six bank accounts of alleged liquor mafia of Daman, Ramesh Patel alias Ramesh Michael, and his wife, Bhanu, in connection with a money laundering case. The ED officers have found Rs 223.47 crore in these accounts, deposited in the last three years.
The ED also seized three luxury cars worth over Rs 2 crore, illegal Indian-made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) stock worth Rs 2.54 crore and Rs 9 lakh cash during raids at their residence and on business premises in Daman since Sunday. The duo were, however, not present during the raids.
The ED had registered an offence under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act against Ramesh and Bhanu besides a few others on the basis of a prohibition case registered by Surat police following seizure of a container loaded with IMFL/beer bottles worth Rs 22.98 lakh from Barbodhan village in Olpad taluka of the district in October, 2016.
Surat police had arrested alleged bootlegger Feroz Fruitwala, his brother Salim, residents of Gopipura, and others including the tanker driver. Investigations revealed that Feroz had allegedly bought the liquor from Ramesh.
Ramesh, on the other hand, had also moved the Gujarat High Court for quashing FIRs lodged by the Surat police stating that since they are based in Daman, where prohibition law doesn’t exist, they can’t be booked under this law in Gujarat. The High Court had rejected their petitions while observing that for an effective prohibition law, Daman should be merged with Gujarat.
The ED probe, however, revealed that the couple ran four liquor shops — Sai wine shop, Sai Enterprise, Sai Bar and Restaurant and Damania Enterprise wine shop in Daman — and that the family was living a lavish life.
At Damania Enterprise in Nani Daman, the officers found a shortage of 38,000 stocks amounting to Rs 7.10 crore.
They suspected that these IMFL stocks might have been diverted to Gujarat with the help of local bootleggers.
The officers also seized an illegal stock of 8,850 boxes containing 1,91,478 bottles worth Rs 2.54 crore and handed them over to the excise and police department.
According to the ED, Ramesh used to stock IMFL bottles in an illegal warehouse built on an area of 3,000 sqm in a slum, where 80 families reside, without any licence or permission from the Excise department.
Sources in the ED said Ramesh had put his wife’s name in the liquor business without any consent from the excise commissioner of Daman, which is mandatory.
According to the ED, Daman liquor sellers can only do business in the union territory and not in other states.
The ED officials found that Ramesh had also used forged documents like invoices to transport them outside Daman.