Booze scam: ED shifts liquor probe to Delhi

Agency seeks files of entire investigation | Will lead to delay, say officials

Booze scam: ED shifts liquor probe to Delhi

Aman Sood

Tribune News Service

Patiala, September 18

In a move that may create ripples in Punjab politics, a senior official today confirmed “the Delhi-based headquarters of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) today ordered shifting of the entire investigation” of the booze scam to the National Capital.

This comes amid speculation that “liquor mafia will try to get the probe shifted”. A senior officer with a vast field experience is already probing the case.

Much more than meets the eye

Deputy Director Niranjan Singh, who has over three decades of field experience, has been asked to stop further probe and the case has been shifted to Delhi. Surely, there is much more than meets the eye. — An ED official

Sources said almost three weeks after the ED stepped in to investigate the illicit liquor trade in Punjab after the August hooch tragedy, the Central Government today paved the way for shifting the entire probe and related investigations to the Delhi headquarters.

“We were anticipating this given the large-scale involvement of politicians who control over 70 per cent of the legal liquor trade, while the liquor mafia continues to make over Rs 2,500 crore per annum at the behest of certain politicians,” said a top ED officer.

Proves Congress-SAD nexus

Congress and SAD leaders are directly involved in the liquor trade and therefore they ensured this probe is shifted to Delhi and delayed. This proves their nexus as no financial recovery has been made to date. — Harpal Singh Cheema, leader of Opposition

“Surprisingly, the case pertains to Punjab, accused are also from the state and even the court jurisdiction will be here, but the ED office has decided to take away the files. This will not only delay, but also hamper in-depth probe,” said the official.

On September 3, the Central investigating agency had registered an enforcement case information report, kick-starting probe into the tragedy, which claimed 125 lives, and also the role of officials, politicians and accused who made crores of rupees through illegal trade. The ED has sought details of the FIRs filed by the Punjab Police in the case to verify a possible money laundering angle.

“Even the investments made by the accused and politicians protecting them would have been probed for money laundering. Our officer Deputy Director Niranjan Singh, who has over three decades of field experience, has been asked to stop further probe and the case has been taken away to the National Capital. Surely there is much more than meets the eye,” said an ED official.

Interestingly, SAD and some Congress leaders have already demanded a CBI probe, claiming Congress MLAs are directly running the trade. On the other hand, Congress claims the probe is already on.

Two days ago, ED Jalandhar Joint Director Ashok Gautam had denied any move to shift the probe to Delhi. However, the official orders were received today in Jalandhar.

The AAP has alleged the shifting of the case outside Punjab from an experienced team that probed the multi-crore drug trade shows the Congress and SAD are playing a friendly game.

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