Year on, Ghanaur distillery case headed for quiet burial : The Tribune India

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Year on, Ghanaur distillery case headed for quiet burial

SIT fails to nail those who profited from illegal sale

Year on, Ghanaur distillery case headed for quiet burial

Police officials raid the illegal liquor unit in Ghanaur. - File photo

Aman Sood

Tribune News Service

Ghanaur, May 30

Almost a year after the Punjab Police unearthed Ghanaur illegal distillery and formed a special investigation team (SIT) to probe the politician-smuggler nexus and the financial beneficiaries, the case is in for a quiet burial.

Even the Enforcement Directorate, which registered a case in Jalandhar, had later shifted the file to Delhi. Sources in the police department said the SIT could neither make any further recoveries, nor establish who pocketed the profits made from the illegal sale during the 2020 lockdown. “There is still no clue on the political patronage to the accused, who manufactured illegal liquor, and the assets and investments made from that sale,” said a top cop.

Much before the liquor tragedy in the Majha region in August 2020, which killed over 110 persons, this was one of the first cases in the state that highlighted the illicit liquor trade. The illegal unit in Ghanaur was run from a cold store and was operating at full capacity since the lockdown. The accused were bottling liquor in Royal Stag, Masti Malta, Lajawab Sofia and Raseela Santra bottles, which are sought after liquor brands in the region. The distillery was using ethyl alcohol (ENA), which is used to manufacture sanitisers.

In May 2020, the police arrested Dipesh Kumar, said to be the kingpin who set up the illegal distillery and a daily wager, on the first day of the raid. Later, Congress-backed Khanpur Khurd sarpanch Amrik Singh and other accused presented themselves to the police.

The police investigation suggests that the distillery did a good business during the lockdown. Amrik’s wife is a zila parishad member, affiliated with the Congress. Later, in another raid a few months later, Dipesh was again arrested in another illegal liquor haul in Rajpura.

“We could make no financial recoveries from them, or any profits earned by them,” said Ghanaur DSP Jaswinder Tiwana, adding: “The challan against the six accused was presented in the court before I joined and now they are on bail.”

Sources say despite confessions by Dipesh during the police remand regarding excise and local cops taking bribes and meeting him personally, the issue wasn’t probed in detail. “Even the on-counter sale of the accused, who already owned government-auctioned liquor vends, could not be established,” they said.

The scam, according to the Opposition parties SAD and BJP, runs into several thousand crores of rupees, with direct link of certain MLAs.

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