With AAP leader Manish Sisodia arrested in connection with the Delhi liquor scam, there have been allegations that the Aam Admi Party (AAP) leaders had also received kickbacks of Rs 100 crore from a group of leaders from the south, identified as the 'south group' by the Enforcement Directorate (ED).
In February, early this year, the ED, which is probing the Delhi liquor scam, said the main arm of the entire Delhi liquor scam rests on the conspiracy orchestrated by the so-called “South Group” with the leaders of the AAP.
On 11 February, the ED filed a remand report of Raghav Magunta in the Rouse Avenue Court in Delhi where it said in the excise conspiracy, leaders of a few political parties have been found to be involved using proxies, dummies and web of exchanges and transactions to conceal their involvement.
What is the 'South Group'?
The South Group comprises YSRCP Ongole MP Magunta Srinivasulu Reddy (MSR), his son Magunta Raghava Reddy, and BRS MLC K Kavitha — who were represented by businessman Arun Ramachandra Pillai — apart from Hyderabad businessman Abhishek Boinpally, chartered accountant Butchibabu Gorantla, and leading pharma company director P Sarath Candra Reddy.
What are the allegations made by the ED?
The ED alleged in its charge sheet filed against businessman Sameer Mahendru and AAP's communication in-charge Vijay Nair, they had hatched a conspiracy with K Kavitha, Magunta Srinivasulu Reddy, Raghav Magunta, and Sarath Reddy.
“Mahendru, in collusion with others, formed a cartel of retailer-wholesaler-manufacturer with Pernod Ricard, Benoy Babu, Vijay Nair, representative of AAP, Arun Pillai, K Kavitha, Magunta Srinivasulu Reddy (MSR), his son Raghav, Sarath Reddy, Abhishek Boinpally and Buchi Babu,” it alleged, adding that the 'south group' was represented by Arun Pillai, Abhishek Boinpally and Buchi Babu.
It added that Mahendru, along with the South group conspired with Nair and formed the cartel to establish a well-oiled kickback mechanism to recover the kickbacks paid.
How were the kickbacks paid?
The kickbacks of Rs 100 Cr that was paid, was recovered via the profits generated by the wholesale operations of Indo Spirits, owned by Mahendru, and the retail operations of the zones owned by the South group and Mahendru… Accordingly, kickbacks to the tune of Rs 100 Cr approx was given by the South group to Vijay Nair on behalf of AAP leaders in an exchange of undue favours in the excise policy, according to the ED.
To recover/recoup the kickbacks given by the South Group, partners of the South group were given 65 per cent stakes in Indo Spirits in collusion with Mahandru, it claimed, adding that the South group controlled these stakes in Indo Spirits, through false representation, concealment and proxies i.e., Arun Pillai and Prem Rahul, the ED added.
It alleged that out of the "bribe" amount of Rs 100 crore made by the entity and politicians, Rs 30 crore "was handled by" another accused Dinesh Arora "in connivance" with other accused Abhishek Boinpally, Joshi and a person identified by his first name, Sudhir.
"So far, the money trail for cash transactions of Rs 70 lakh payment has been made, which is contiguous with the time of acquisition of these funds as found in the investigation," the ED claimed in its second charge sheet filed in the case before a local court in Delhi last month.
Allegation of poll campaign
The ED alleged in a charge sheet submitted to the court that a part of the alleged ₹100 crore “kickbacks” generated in the scrapped Delhi excise policy was “used” in the 2022 Goa Assembly election campaign of the Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP party.
Chariot Productions, the ED said, was an entity “engaged by the AAP for related advertising and other work for their Goa election campaign for 2022 Assembly elections.”
“On following the money trail of part of this amount it has been found that Vijay Nair (AAP communication in-charge, arrested in the case earlier) has engaged in making cash payments for campaign-related work through Chariot Productions as well as through individuals.
(with PTI inputs)