‘Toolkits’ Related to Comedians, Influencers, Hyderabad-linked Licensees Under the Scanner


A dozen-odd standup comedians, a close-knit group of Hyderabad-linked wholesale and retail traders of alcoholic beverages, and a maze of corporate entities sharing similar Mumbai addresses are among those being probed for the alleged Delhi liquor licensing scam, officials said on Sunday. Also under the scanner are some serving and former executives of global and domestic liquor manufacturers, social media influencers, as also individuals and companies engaged in activities of horse racing, betting and online gaming.

The CBI has filed an FIR against 13 individuals, two companies and “other unknown public servants and private persons” after conducting searches at various locations including in Delhi, Mumbai and Hyderabad. The ministry of corporate affairs and related agencies are also looking into the affairs of a maze of companies associated directly or indirectly with those named by the CBI for any possible wrongdoings.

Officials aware of the matter said on the condition of anonymity — either because of the probe still being in a nascent stage or due to they not being authorised to talk to the media — that the preliminary investigations are mostly focused on some “toolkit modules” that could have been used for generating a positive response mechanism for a liberal liquor sale policy in Delhi. These officials, working in various government departments and enforcement agencies, are directly involved in the ongoing probes.

‘Toolkit’ has become a popular term in the recent past for a set of planned activities for the social and mainstream media to achieve a particular goal, often for political purposes. Some officials cited above admitted the probe could be politically-driven but maintained that there was enough prima-facie evidence of certain regulations having been violated, including for financial wrongdoings and non-disclosure of material information under the Companies Act and those involving spreading misinformation under the IT and other Acts.

Another angle being looked into involves financial dealings in shares and cryptocurrencies, as also on online gaming platforms, of those under the scanner. Foreign visits and international remittances are also being probed for at least 50 individuals including comic artists, businessmen, social media influencers and those linked to the entertainment industry, officials added. This list also includes various individuals and companies having roots in Hyderabad, which got licenses issued for sale of liquor in Delhi.

A key name that has come to the fore is Vijay Nair and a maze of companies he is associated with, including Only Much Louder, Babblefish and Motherswear. Other names that have come up during the probe for being associated with Nair, including through his co-directors, are Weirdass Comedy, Motormouth Writers and Rebellion Management among entities engaged in online gaming, betting and comedy shows, officials said citing Registrar of Companies records.

While the CBI is probing the role of Delhi’s Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia and several other individuals, including Nair, for alleged corruption in the implementation of the Delhi Excise Policy, top government officials said that MCA is looking into a maze of corporate entities associated with those named by the CBI. Sisodia and his party, the Aam Aadmi Party, have described the CBI action as politically motivated and driven by the central government being scared of Arvind Kejriwal’s emergence as a “national alternative” to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Nair also issued a statement on Saturday wherein he refuted that he has fled the country and said he was abroad for “personal” work. In its FIR, the CBI has alleged that accused licensees and businessmen, including Nair, were actively involved in irregularities in the framing and implementation of the policy.

The CBI has also alleged that one Arun Ramchandra Pillai collected bribes from a liquor firm owner for some public servants through Nair, whom the agency described as the former CEO of Only Much Louder, a Mumbai-based entertainment and event management company. Officials said that some companies previously set up by Nair have been struck off from the registry, but details about those are also being looked into.

The RoC records show that ‘Only Much Louder Event Management Private Limited’ was incorporated with a paid-up capital of Rs 1 lakh in Mumbai in 2006 and had two directors, Vijay Swaminathan Nair and Girish Makhanlal Talwar. Nair was also on the boards of OML Digital Production Pvt Ltd and Motherswear Entertainment Pvt Ltd.

On the other hand, Talwar was a director of two other firms, Weirdass Comedy Pvt Ltd and Rebellion Management and Entertainment Pvt Ltd. Weirdass Comedy also had Anuraag Srivastava and Vir Saran Das as its directors.

At OML Digital Production, one of the directors named Ajay Swaminathan Nair is associated with some gaming companies as well. Vijay and Ajay Nair were also directors at Motherswear Entertainment, which was set up as a company engaged in businesses like race tracks, video parlours, amusement parks and other entertainment activities, officials added.

Another company being looked into is 64 Squares Gaming Private Ltd, one of whose directors was found to be associated with two other firms — OML Tools and Technologies Pvt Ltd and Motormouth Writers Pvt Ltd — which were found to share the address with some companies associated with Nair.

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