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AG finds no wrongdoing at New Hampshire liquor commission

November 30, 2018

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — The New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office has found no wrongdoing in the way that the state liquor stores process large cash sales.

The probe stems from questions raised by Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky, who was concerned about potentially illegal business practices carried out by the New Hampshire Liquor Commission, including avoiding federal financial reporting requirements. The Internal Revenue Service first raised questions about how the liquor commission handles large sales 10 years ago.

The Attorney General’s Office sent a letter to the Republican Gov. Chris Sununu and Volinsky on Thursday saying state law doesn’t impose limits on the amount of cash the commission can accept as part of a transaction. It also found no evidence that the liquor commission encouraged any of its employees to violate the policy nor any evidence that cash received at commission stores was derived from illegal trafficking. It also said the commission doesn’t have the power or legal obligation to enforce laws from other states with regards to liquor sales or purchases.

But it did say there was a “long overdue need” for “finality and certainty” with regards to large cash sales and that it was working with the Internal Revenue Service as to the appropriateness of the commission’s policy on the issue as it pertains to the relevant sections of the Internal Revenue Code.

In a statement Friday, the commission said the attorney general shows it has done nothing wrong.

“The Department of Justice’s investigation reaffirms what we have stated from day one - the New Hampshire Liquor Commission has strong policies in place that adhere to all state and federal guidelines,” Commission Chairman Joseph Mollica said in a statement. “We are committed to following the letter of the law and this report reflects that. We make no apologies for following our statutory obligation to maximize revenue for the taxpayers of New Hampshire, which we have done for nearly 85 years, generating more than $3.5 billion for the State.”

But Volinsky said the Attorney General’s report does little to settle the matter and he criticized it as evidence the agency wasn’t taking the issue seriously. He argued there is plenty of evidence showing a connection between “illegal liquor sales in New Hampshire and drug trafficking, bribery and financial crimes in New York.”

He was referring to the case of a bootlegger who New Hampshire Public Radio reported was arrested in Massachusetts after police found more than $40,000 worth of Hennessy in his van that had been purchased with cash at New Hampshire liquor stores. The bootlegger told police he was working on behalf of Hamlet Peralta, a New York restaurateur sentenced to five years in federal prison for operating a $12 million ponzi scheme that involved a fictitious wholesale liquor business.

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