The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has demanded a thorough investigation into the role of Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi in the Rs 2,000 crore liquor scam in Chhattisgarh. In a press conference held earlier today, AAP Senior Leader and Delhi Minister Shri Saurabh Bhardwaj questioned the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) soft approach towards the scam, and alleged that the brother of a Congress mayor was the kingpin behind the scam. In Chhattisgarh, liquor was being made illegally and delivered to government shops without excise duty, as per the allegations cast upon the Congress Government. Shri Saurabh Bhardwaj further revealed that till 2019-21, 40 percent excise duty was stolen through illegal liquor with fake bottles and holograms. These bottles had no mention in government records.

Addressing a press conference on this issue, Delhi Cabinet Minister Shri Saurabh Bhardwaj said that in the newspapers this morning, there was a news item stating that a Rs 2000 crore liquor scam had been unearthed by the ED in Congress-led Chhattisgarh.

According to the news report, it is the Mayor of Raipur, Aijaz Dhebar’s brother, Anwar Dhebar, who is the mastermind of the entire scam. The news articles also point out that he was summoned by the ED seven times and yet he was never interrogated. “He has eventually been arrested by the ED and the court has given a four-day remand to interrogate him. But based on these news reports, some very important questions need to be answered,” he said.

Shri Saurabh Bhardwaj also highlighted how in Chhattisgarh the entire liquor business is owned by the state government. There are around 800 government approved liquor stores and a state-run corporation, Chhatisgarh State Marketing Corporation Limited (CSMCL), centrally procures alcohol and sells it. He highlighted that some serious questions have been raised regarding the functioning of the CSMCL.

Pointing out how an entire cartel was being run by the state government, Shri Saurabh Bhardwaj said that it was unlikely that the Chief Minister of the state, Shri Bhupesh Baghel did not know about this. “First of all such officers were appointed in the Excise department that were under the control of politicians. Can the brother of the Mayor appoint an Excise Commissioner? Of course, not. Only a person who heads the government, like the Chief Minister can appoint the commissioner. Since Chhattisgarh is a full state, it is only the CM who can appoint officers to such posts,” he said.

He said that as part of the syndicate that was run under this excise commissioner a system was set up in which even private distilleries and other license holders were involved. Senior officers of the excise department, officers of the district excise department, people involved in manufacturing alcohol bottles and their hologram were also involved in this nexus. “The entire liquor trade runs on the premise that for every bottle that is sold, the state government earns an excise amount. Often when a bottle sells for Rs 100, around Rs 60-65 is the excise amount that goes to the state exchequer. In this cartel, illegal non-paid excise liquor was being manufactured and a parallel mechanism was used to transport these bottles to the state-run liquor stores. There was no official record of these bottles being transported to the state-run liquor stores,” he said.

Shri Saurabh Bhardwaj said that the investigation conducted by the ED states that between 2019-21, around 30-40 percent of the liquor bottles sold in the state-run liquor stores consisted of this parallel liquor business. “Since no excise amount was being collected on these bottles. So, if these bottles were sold for Rs 100, Rs 60-65 were going into the pockets of the people running this syndicate,” he said.

He further said that to run a parallel syndicate like this there has to be a collusion between politicians and officials across sections. “There has to be the involvement of people from top to the bottom. The people who are involved in manufacturing and distribution of the liquor in the distillery have to be involved. Those 800 odd state-run liquor stores also have to be involved, as the people selling parallel liquor over there are not accounting this sale in government records,” he said.

He said that this would not have been possible without the involvement of entire state-run marketing company at the state-level and the district-level. “Our firm belief is that for this pattern to function in such a manner, the political leadership of the state, i.e. the chief minister of the state, had to be involved,” he said.

Highlighting that the scam took place in “three patterns”, Shri Saurabh Bhardwaj said that the second pattern involved a commission of Rs 70-150 on every bottle of legal or excise paid bottle of alcohol. He said that the third pattern involved CSMCL, the marketing corporation, to take a certain percentage of commission from every brand owner whose liquor would be allowed to be sold in the market. He added that the brand which was not willing to pay commission, would not be allowed to sell their product in the state-run liquor stores.

He pointed out that it was in these three patterns that the scam was being orchestrated in the state and the brother of the Mayor of Raipur, Anwar Dhebar, was its mastermind.

Shri Saurabh Bhardwaj concluded by saying that the Aam Aadmi Party demands that the chief minister of Chhattisgarh, Bhupesh Baghel, also be arrested in this scam and investigated. He added that there is a possibility that the money earned by the Congress leaders in this scam, would have been used by the national leadership of the party. “Since everyone is aware that the CM of the state is very close to Rahul Gandhi, the latter should also be investigated in this matter. When such a huge scam was taking place in a Congress-ruled state, it is unlikely that he would not be aware of it,” he said.

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