Probe widens, ED to file FIR - ECAS Punjab

Probe widens, ED to file FIR

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Aman Sood
Tribune News Service
Patiala, June 16

The probe into the illegal liquor manufacturing across the states of Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan just got wider after the Enforcement Directorate (ED) decided to register an FIR to investigate the "money trail". ED sleuths visited Patiala and other parts of the state to start formal investigations into the case.

The directorate, conducting a probe under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, is looking into at least a dozen FIRs registered at various police stations in Punjab, Rajasthan and Haryana. "A collective FIR at the ED headquarters is likely this week," a top source said. However, no officer is willing to speak on the matter due to sensitivity of the case.

A team led by ED's Punjab Deputy Director Niranjan Singh today made a visit to Patiala and held a closed-door meeting with Patiala SSP Mandeep Singh Sidhu. "The case, pertaining to an illegal liquor distillery involving a Congress sarpanch in Ghanaur, was discussed in detail," say insiders.

Sources said the ED had decided to widen the ambit of the probe. "Illegal liquor has recently developed as a major trade involving crores of rupees. Though the accused are arrested and many liquor bottles seized, hardly any cash is recovered. Investigations will now specifically target the ones who pocketed crores of rupees," a source said.

An official of the ED confirmed to The Tribune that case files of all recent liquor hauls in Punjab made by the police and excise departments would be probed in detail to study the money trail. "The role of excise and other officials who were hand in glove with the accused and made fortunes will also be probed," an official said.

Kingpin held, joint raids conducted

Raikot: The police have arrested the kingpin of a group involved in filling inferior quality liquor in bottles of high-end brands. The accused has been identified as Bittu Chhabra, owner of Hardy's World and elder brother of liquor baron Kewal Chhabra. Joint teams of the Ludhiana (Rural) police and the Excise Department conducted search on the premises of Hardy's World. Ludhiana (Rural) SSP Vivek Soni said the special investigation team, supervised by IG Nageshwar Rao, had identified Bittu on the basis of calls made by him to another accused who had been arrested by the Jodhan police from the illegal bottling unit at Khadur on February 13. Sources reveal that Bittu had made around 300 phone calls to the persons involved in the case. OC



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