ED forced witnesses in Delhi liquor scam to sign pre-dictated statements, Sarath Reddy tells court

The ED had alleged in its charge sheet that Sarath Reddy controlled five retail zones through Trident Chemphar Pvt Ltd and other entities.

ByPTI

Published Jan 21, 2023 | 12:18 AM Updated Jan 21, 2023 | 12:19 AM

The Enforcement Directorate carried out search-and-seize operations at 25 locations in multiple states. (Supplied)

Businessman Sharath Chandra Reddy, arrested in a money-laundering case related to the alleged Delhi liquor scam, accused the Enforcement Directorate on Friday, 20 December, of putting undue pressure and using force on the witnesses to sign pre-dictated statements.

Reddy made the allegation during the arguments on his bail application before Special Judge MK Nagpal, and claimed the accusation of ₹100 crore bribe having been paid to Delhi government officials was “baseless”, and that there was no evidence regarding the generation of that amount.

The ED had alleged in its prosecution complaint (charge sheet) that Reddy was controlling five retail zones through his Trident Chemphar Private Ltd (TCL) and some other entities.

Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Reddy, told the court the accused was not a public servant and had no role either in the framing or execution of the Delhi Liquor Policy.

Assuming there was a breach of the provisions of the Delhi Excise Policy, the consequences were stipulated in the policy itself and they, in no manner, constituted any offence under any penal statute, the counsel said, adding that cartelisation was even otherwise not an offence under any penal law.

Related: ED application in court names ‘South Group’

“The statements relied upon by the prosecution did not disclose any offence against Reddy and, except for the oral evidence collected in the form of statements, there is no other evidence to show the commission of offence… It is relevant to note that during the course of interrogation, the ED has put undue pressure and used force on employees of TCL to sign pre-dictated statements,” Sibal told the court.

The counsel termed as baseless the allegation of Reddy’s links with some other entities that are under the scanner, saying there was no commonality of partners, directors or shareholders.

“The said companies have different managements. The applicant has never held any interest in the said companies — Shree Avantika Contractors Ltd and Organomix Ecosystems Ltd — or is in any manner related to the aforesaid two companies,” the counsel told the judge.

The ED charge sheet had named these two companies as proxy entities through which Reddy controlled the five retail zones.

The now-scrapped excise policy barred any person from controlling more than two retail zones.

Sibal said the money-laundering case was based on a corruption case filed by the CBI, and “there is no allegation in the CBI charge sheet against the present applicant.”

Also read: CBI records statement of K Kavitha in Delhi liquor scam case

It is relevant to note that though the allegation is that the south group paid ₹100 crore in bribes, the money trail is established only with respect to ₹70 lakh allegedly used in the Goa elections, he told the court.

He said the allegation of the destruction of evidence based on Reddy changing phones was far from the truth.

“It is not the case of the prosecution that there was some evidence in the phones which was destroyed due to frequent change of phones,” the counsel said.

He said: “The minimum bid price (reserve license fee) was 10 percent more than the total revenue earned in the last FY 2019-20. The final bid amount was 25% higher than the reserve bid price. Thus, the total estimated revenue was more than 35 percent of the total revenue earned in the previous year.”

The court has put up the matter for 25 January for further proceedings.

The CBI and the ED have alleged that irregularities were committed while modifying the Delhi Excise Policy 2021-22, undue favours were extended to licence holders, the licence fee was waived or reduced and L-1 licence was extended without the competent authority’s approval.

The beneficiaries were alleged to have diverted “illegal” gains to the accused officials and made false entries in their books of account to evade detection, the agencies said.

The FIR in the case was instituted on a reference from the Union Home Ministry following a recommendation by the Delhi Lieutenant-Governor.

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