Patel’s AEPL employed key accused Hooch tragedy: Lookout notice against Sameer Patel as he misses summons

Days after his methanol-producing unit in Ahmedabad was sealed following the alleged hooch tragedy in which 42 persons were killed, a lookout notice has been issued Tuesday against Sameer Patel, owner of Amos Corporation, after he failed to appear despite multiple police summons.

Patel is also the vice-chariman of the Bet Devsthan Samiti (BDS), a religious trust that manages the Dwarkadhish Mukhya Mandir on the Bet Dwarka island.

“After Samir Patel was sent multiple summons to present himself for questioning, he did not reply to the summons. So, a team was sent to his residence Monday. However, he was found to be absconding. We fear that he might try to flee the country. So, after informing the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), a lookout notice has been issued against him at the behest of Gujarat Police. He has not been named as an accused in any of the three FIRs filed in the chemical-poisoning deaths case,” a senior police official investigating the alleged hooch tragedy told The Indian Express.

As per investigations so far, the key accused—an Amos employee—‘stole’ methanol from the godown of Amos Enterprise Private Limited (AEPL), a company run by Patel in Ahmedabad, and supplied it to local bootleggers for brewing the poisonous country liquor.

Sameer Patel could not be reached for comments.

“I heard his name being discussed in the media in connection with the hooch tragedy and dialled Patel to enquire as to what was going on. He told me that he was also trying to figure out as to how it (methanol) made its way out of his factory and he was running hither and thither to get clues,” Hemantsinh Vadher, one of the 14 trustees of BDS, told this paper last week.

BDS was set up in 1959 to manage the affairs of Dwarkadhish temple, believed to be the residence of Lord Krishna, as well as 39 other temples on the Bet Dwarka island located off Okha town in Devbhumi Dwarka district. Trustees of the temple board are appointed by the Jamnagar district judge on recommendations of the state government.

Son of Nalin Patel who served as a minister in the Madhavsinh Solanki government, Sameer is a promoter of Amos Enterprise Limited (AEL) and the former vice-president of the Gujarat Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI). He was appointed a trustee on the temple board in 2012. He was re-appointed on the board after he completed his first five-year tenure and in 2019, he was elected the vice-chairman of the board, while the then state energy minister Saurabh Patel was elected the chairman.
“I know him for the past many years and he has been rendering social service for quite some time. As per police, methanol was stolen from his godown and he should not be subjected to media trial,” Saurabh Patel said.

Ahmedabad businessmen Umang Shah and Anuj Mehta are also among the trustees of the board.
The godown at Piplaj in Ahmedabad’s Daskroi taluka from where 600 litres of methanol was allegedly stolen is owned by Amos Corporation—AEPL’s chemical trading division. The company’s website lists public-sector enterprises such as Gujarat Narmada Valley Fertilisers and Chemicals (GNFC) and Indian Potash Limited (IPL), among its business associates.

Vadher, a 75-year-old resident of Bet Dwarka, said a lot of projects took off after Patel joined the board.

“The temple lacked basic facilities for devotees. After he joined the board, the board managed to persuade the government to shift a school adjoining the temple to another location to clear land for the proposed Rs 15 crore Yatri Nivas (inn). He also got land for the proposed quarters for the State Reserve Police personnel who guard the temple. Until a few years ago, I would have to donate a lot of fodder to the temple gaushala as it did not have funds. But that stopped with Patel’s appointment,” said Vadher, adding, the temple board is in the process of constructing a new gaushala.

Dinesh Badiyani, who has been serving as an accountant of the temple board for the past four decades, said Patel played a key role in completing the renovation of the temple at a cost of Rs 6 crore, of which around Rs 4 crore came from the state government.

However, a few tirth pandits at Bet Dwarka are not happy about Patel’s style of functioning. “He started running the temple in the style of a company CEO with little respect to traditions and tirth pandits,” said a tirth pandit.

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There are around 90 families of Gugali Brahmins in Bet Dwarka. The temple board shares 40 per cent of the donation offered by devotees with the Gugali brahmins or tirth pandits.

However, the board directly employs around 100 persons. “Despite administrators doing good work, some vested interests are defaming them while showing scant respect to the importance of the temple in context of Bet Dwarka where Hindu residents are a minority,” said Vadher, who was elected to Jamnagar district panchayat in 1990s on a BJP ticket.

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