–Masood Warraich accused of extorting money from liquor sales by hotel managements
–Warraich claims he’s being punished for cracking down on illicit sale of alcohol
LAHORE: The Punjab government on Wednesday made a controversial Excise & Taxation Officer (ETO), Masood Bashir Warraich, an Officer on Special Duty (OSD), days after he conducted a raid on Cafe Aylanto, an elite restaurant on MM Alam Road.
The restaurant was raided on Saturday for allegedly allowing its patrons to consume alcohol on the premises.
The raiding party, led by Warraich and the Model Town assistant commissioner, claimed that they had recovered imported liquor from the premises. Interestingly, while the restaurant’s owners were not nominated in the FIR [First Information Report], the raiding team arrested 13 employees – most of them, waiters.
An officer of the Lahore Excise Department, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told Pakistan Today that Warraich was a “very corrupt officer who managed to remain on the seat due to his influential contacts”.
“There was a serious crisis in the department in July this year when Warraich ‘deliberately’ delayed renewal of liquor licences of the four hotels in Lahore after the hotel managements allegedly refused to pay him 30 per cent commission from the daily liquor sales,” the source claimed.
He alleged that Warraich was also responsible for the increase in liquor prices in Rawalpindi during his posting as Director Excise.
“Warraich’s influence can be gauged from the fact that he has always been in top positions despite being a junior officer,” said the source, adding that the ETO was “so powerful that he even managed to get his superior officers transferred if they tried to rein him in”.
A source who operates out of a local five-star hotel told Pakistan Today that the prices of liquor products had jacked up by almost 500 per cent in the black market due to the steps taken by Warraich.
“Murree Brewery’s Vintage whiskey—which used to sell for Rs1,500 in the black market—jumped to Rs4,000 after Warriach tightened the screws on hotels serving alcohol [illegally],” the source claimed.
He also alleged that all four hotels used to pay Rs30,000 each every day to ETOs before Warraich took over. However, the claim is yet to be confirmed from the hotel managements.
“However, the situation changed after Warraich allegedly demanded Rs2,500 on each liquor case sold illegally, and imposed a strict check on the sale registers of the bar rooms in a bid to pressurise the hotel managements. He also restricted the entry of bootleggers within the hotel premises, thus impacting the illegal sales being made by the bar room managers.
“This tug of war eventually cost Warraich his coveted office but word on the street is that he’ll be back soon because of his influence in government quarters,” the source said.
WARRAICH REJECTS ALLEGATIONS:
On the other hand, Masood Warraich rejected the corruption allegations against him.
Talking to Pakistan Today, Warraich said that he had been made an OSD under pressure of the hotel managements after he tried to regulate their ‘illegal’ liquor sales.
“I am being accused of corruption just because I implemented the rules. Before I took charge, all four hotels were selling over 100,000 liquor bottles each illegally every day which reduced to about 8,000 each after I intervened,” he claimed.
“Rumours about my character are being spread by the liquor mafia to discredit me. This is the first time since General Ziaul Haq’s regime that someone has dared to control the liquor mafia in Lahore,” he said.
“All the four hotels were earning almost Rs10 million every day from illegal sales, which has now come down to Rs0.3-0.4 million due to my efforts,” he claimed.
Warraich further said that all his actions to regulate the liquor trade were sanctioned by Secretary Excise and Taxation.
Pakistan Today made repeated efforts to contact the managements of the four hotels that have liquor permits to confirm the veracity of the claims leveled by the former ETO; however, their response was not available till the time this report was made.