The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has alleged that a senior Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer, Anil Tuteja, was the “kingpin” of an illegal liquor syndicate in the state of Chhattisgarh, along with liquor businessman Anwar Dhebar. According to the ED, the syndicate comprised high-level state government officials, private individuals, and political executives, and generated corruption money of over Rs 2,000 crore ($268 million).
The ED’s investigation also revealed that from 2019 to 2022, the sale of “unaccounted illicit” liquor was almost 30-40 per cent of the total liquor sale in the state, with a criminal syndicate operating in Chhattisgarh making illegal bribe collections by controlling the high-level management of key state departments, particularly the excise department, which deals in liquor, and state public sector undertakings.
The ED claimed that the syndicate was charging illegal commission from liquor suppliers for accounted sales in the state, selling off-the-record unaccounted country liquor from state-run shops, and taking an annual commission to allow distillers to operate in the state. The agency also claimed that Anwar was the main collection agent and front man for the syndicate, and there was specific digital evidence depicting the delivery of Rs 14.41 crore ($1.9 million) by Anwar to Tuteja.
Anwar, the elder brother of Congress leader and Raipur Mayor Aijaz Dhebar, was arrested on May 7 by the ED, and the special Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) court subsequently sent him into four-day custody of the ED.
This is not the first time that corruption and the illegal sale of liquor have been linked to Indian officials. In 2018, the death of over 100 people in India’s northern state of Uttar Pradesh was linked to the consumption of illicit liquor, with officials suspending several officers and ordering an inquiry into the incident.
The ED’s investigation into the Chhattisgarh liquor syndicate highlights the pervasive corruption and malfeasance that continues to plague many parts of India, with powerful individuals leveraging their positions to enrich themselves at the expense of the country’s citizens. As India continues to grow and develop, it is essential that the country’s leaders work to eradicate such practices and foster an environment of transparency, accountability, and good governance.