Pernod India executive requests bail in Delhi liquor policy case

FILE PHOTO: Pernod Ricard's brand names are seen inside its India office in Gurugram

By Arpan Chaturvedi

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - A Pernod Ricard India executive jailed since November over an investigation into alleged liquor policy violations sought bail on Wednesday in a hearing before New Delhi's top city court.

Benoy Babu, head for international brands for Pernod India, was arrested on Nov. 11 as India's federal financial crime agency, the Enforcement Directorate, looks into irregularities involving retailers, politicians and individual businesspeople in the implementation of a 2021 New Delhi liquor policy.

In January, both Pernod Ricard India and Babu were formally named as accused parties in the case, according to court documents. The company and Babu have denied any wrongdoing.

On Wednesday, Babu's lawyer Mukul Rohatgi asked a Delhi High Court judge to grant bail for the executive, saying he had done nothing wrong and was cooperating with investigators.

The Enforcement Directorate lawyer opposed the move in court and the judge said he will next hear the matter on March 16.

Babu previously argued before a lower court in Delhi that the arrest was illegal and he was falsely implicated but the court declined bail last week, stating that the allegations were "quite serious".

The Enforcement Directorate has alleged that Pernod Ricard violated the 2021 New Delhi liquor policy by financially supporting retailers who stocked more of the French company's brands and boosted its market share, Reuters reported in January.

It has also accused Pernod of illegally making profits in India of $23 million by giving false price information and conspiring in an email campaign to sway New Delhi city's liquor policy.

Pernod Ricard India has said it was relying on the judicial process to demonstrate its legal compliance and that the allegations by the agency were factually incorrect.

(Reporting by Arpan Chaturvedi; Editing by Aditya Kalra and Edmund Klamann)