The Delhi High Court on Wednesday issued notice to Enforcement Directorate (ED) on a bail plea moved by Benoy Babu in connection with the Delhi Excise case probed by Enforcement Directorate. Binoy worked as a general manager with a liquor company M/S Pernod Ricard and was arrested by ED in November, last year.
The Bench of Justice Dinesh Kumar Sharma on Wednesday sought a response/status report from Investigation Agency and listed the matter for March 16, 2023. The Trial Court on February 16, had dismissed the bail plea of Vijay Nair, Abhishek Bonipally, Sameer Mahendru, Sarath P Reddy and Benoy Babu who were arrested in the money laundering probe emerging out of the Delhi government’s now scrapped New Excise Policy.
The Trial Coury while denied bail to Benoy Babu along with others stated that none of the applicants/accused deserves to be released on bail in this case at this stage of proceedings as the allegations made against them are quite serious and relate to the commission of an economic offence of money-laundering defined by Section 3 and made punishable by Section 4 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). Senior Lawyer Mukul Rohatagi appeared for Benoy on Wednesday and submitted that he has been falsely implicated in this case by the ED, though he played no role in the formulation of the excise policy and further despite the fact that he was made a witness by the CBI in above scheduled offences case.
Senior Lawyer Siddharth Lawyer also appeared for Benoy Babu and stated that the only role played by the applicant in relation to the said excise policy was that he had submitted recommendations on behalf of M/S Pernod Ricard in respect to the said policy to the Expert Committee with M/S Pernod Ricard was a stakeholder in the liquor business and its recommendations or views were required to be given in connection with the formulation of the policy. ED while opposing the bail plea of Benoy Babu stated that he was a key member of the above cartel as without him it would not have been possible for the conspirators of the above criminal conspiracy to achieve the objective of cartelization and monopoly. It was also submitted that the idea of furnishing corporate guarantees by M/S Pernod Ricard was the brainchild of this applicant and it was done to ensure that the retail vend entities keep at least 35 per cent stock of the liquor brands manufactured by the above-said company and also with a motive to control about 30 per cent of the Delhi liquor market.
ED also submitted that sufficient oral evidence in the form of statements of witnesses U/S 50 of the PMLA is there to this effect. Again, he is also alleged to be the person who had signed the requisite document for the grant of wholesale license of liquor by M/S Pernod Ricard in the name of M/S Indo Spirits owned by the co-accused Sameer Mahandru at the instance of co-accused Vijay Nair and specific evidence to this effect is stated to have been collected by the ED during the course of the investigation and it clearly shows that it was done as per the objectives of above criminal conspiracy and as a device for recouping or repayment of the advance kickbacks paid by the South group. According to the ED, an investigation conducted in the case so far has revealed that advance kickbacks of around Rs 100 crores were paid to the public servants involved in this conspiracy and as a result of the nexus created because of this conspiracy between the political persons, Government officers/officials and the other accused persons involved in the liquor trade, a total loss of around Rs 2873 crores has been caused to the exchequer of GNCTD.
It has also been specifically alleged that an investigation conducted by the ED has further revealed that all the five accused had played key roles in the commission of the offence of money laundering as they all were actively involved, directly or indirectly, in the process or activities relating to the above proceeds of crime or its concealment, possession, acquisition, use and projection or claiming it to be untainted property etc.