Deputy Commissioner among 14 Excise officials suspended over corruption charges

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Palakkad: The Kerala Government has suspended 14 Excise Department officials from service for allegedly accepting bribes to renew the permits to transport toddy to various districts. The officials include M M Nassar, the Deputy Commissioner (DC) of Excise in Palakkad.

The arrests were a follow-up of the seizure of Rs 10.23 lakh from three persons, including an Excise staff, by the Vigilance on May 17. The seized cash is suspected to be bribe money.

Those placed under suspension apart from Nassar are, S Sajiv, a circle inspector of the Excise Special Squad; K Ajayan, circle inspector, Chittur; E Ramesh, sub-inspector, Chittur; C Senthil Kumar, Intelligence inspector; M Noorudeen, an assistant at division office; A S Praveen, Mansoor Ali, P Shaji and K Syamjith, divisional officers; M Sooraj, Vinayakaran and C Sasi Kumar, civil excise officers and P Santhosh Kumar, an assistant excise inspector.

On May 17, the Vigilance had seized Rs 2.24 lakh from the scooter of Excise assistant Noorudeen and Rs 7.79 lakh from vehicles belonging to the licencees of Irinjalakuda and Kodungallur regions.

Following the seizure, Noorudeen and the licencees told Vigilance officials that the cash was meant to be distributed among Excise officials as bribe.

A subsequent investigation by Vigilance and the Joint Commissioner of Excise Intelligence traced the phone calls between the Excise officials allegedly taking bribes and the licencees. Following which, action was taken against the 14 officials based on instructions from S Ananthakrishnan, the Excise Commissioner.

During its probe, the Vigilance found that Excise officials in five offices were charging Rs 60 as bribe for every litre of toddy. The bribe was code-named ‘santhosha panam’ (happiness money).

Previous actions

Earlier, 13 Excise officials, including the then Deputy Commissioner, were suspended after a seizure of 1,312 litres of spirit, 2,220 litres of spurious toddy and Rs 11 lakh as cash from Anakkappara in Alathur range on June 27 last year. In addition, 147 Excise officials in Palakkad district were issued transfer orders.

In November 2021, three officers, including the Excise circle inspector, Chittur, were suspended on charges of accepting a bribe of Rs 83,000 for renewing a permit.

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