‘A part of conspiracy, brain behind policy’: ED claim on Delhi CM’s role | Latest News Delhi - Hindustan Times

‘A part of conspiracy, brain behind policy’: ED claim on Delhi CM’s role

ByNeeraj Chauhan
Mar 22, 2024 02:33 AM IST

ED has claimed in one of its charge sheets that a “conspiracy was hatched” by political leaders including Kejriwal

The 2021-22 excise policy was allegedly designed to line the pockets of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and some of its leaders, and was the “brainchild” of Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) has claimed in court submissions made in connection with other accused, and according to remarks by officers who asked not to be named.

Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal being taken away by ED following his arrest on Thursday. (HT Photo)
Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal being taken away by ED following his arrest on Thursday. (HT Photo)

Following his arrest, an officer with the federal agency said there were broadly three reasons why the CM was arrested: first, there was evidence he was involved in the formulation and implementation of the policy; two, because he ignored repeated summons; and three, he was evasive during questioning.

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The AAP has denied all charges.

Broadly, the allegations around the excise policy pertain to 100 crore in kickbacks being paid by a group of businessmen and politicians referred to by investigators as the “South Group” to AAP. This money was shovelled back to the party’s leaders in return for securing nine retail vending zones for alcohol under the new policy, according to the federal agency

Read more: Arvind Kejriwal arrested by ED in liquor probe, AAP demands immediate SC hearing

The allegations around Kejriwal, while not detailed on record, pertain to two counts: one, that the policy itself was the CM’s “brainchild”; and, two, that a specific decision to fix 12% profit margin was taken at the AAP leader’s residence during a meeting with other ministers.

The contentions are based mostly on purported statements by a businessman and a former secretary of Kejriwal’s then deputy Manish Sisodia, who too is one of the leaders arrested over the case.

Kejriwal is the third high-profile leader from the AAP to be arrested — and the 32nd overall arrest in the case —after former deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia, and AAP Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh.

On March 15, ED also arrested Bharat Rashta Samithi (BRS) leader and daughter of former Telangana chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao, in connection with its investigation into money laundering charges linked to the now-scrapped excise policy.

Read more: Why was Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal arrested by ED? What's liquor policy case?

Other members in the South Group, according to investigators, were YSR Congress MP Magunta Srinivasulu Reddy, his son Raghav Magunta, Sarath Reddy (promoter of Aurobindo Group) and Delhi businessman Sameer Mahendru.

ED has claimed in one of its charge sheets that a “conspiracy was hatched” by political leaders including Kejriwal, Sisodia and Kavitha, among others, in the Delhi excise policy.

“Kavitha orchestrated a deal with CM, Delhi Arvind Kejriwal and then deputy CM and excise minister Manish Sisodia, wherein she along with other members of the South Group paid them kickbacks through a string of intermediaries and middlemen. In exchange for kickbacks paid to the leaders of AAP, Kavitha had access to the policy formulation and was offered provisions to ensure a favorable position to her,” ED said in its remand note last week after arresting Kavitha.

ED has alleged the South Group paid kickbacks of 100 crore in advance to Vijay Nair (AAP’s then communications in-charge), who was managing this scheme and conspiracy on behalf of AAP leaders.

Arvind Kejriwal arrested: Follow LIVE updates

The agency said in one of the court documents last year that “Nair is not an ordinary worker of the AAP but a close associate of Arvind Kejriwal, the CM of Delhi…”

It said that businessman Sameer Mahendru asked Nair to arrange a meeting with Kejriwal, and to verify Nair’s clout, a “FaceTime call with the CM was arranged by Nair”. Kejriwal told Mahendru during this video call that “Vijay is his boy and that he should trust him”, ED has claimed.

ED cited a December 7, 2022 statement recorded by Sisodia’s then secretary C Arvind who claimed he was informed of the decision to carve a 12% profit margin for wholesale private entities at Kejriwal’s residence in March 2021. There were no discussions about handing the wholesale liquor business to private players in meetings held by the group of ministers (GoM) — which comprised Sisodia, Satyendar Jain and Kailash Gahlot — before mid-March 2021, Arvind told ED.

However, “on March 18, 2021, Arvind was called by Sisodia to Kejriwal’s residence (where former health minister Satyendar Jain was also present) and Sisodia handed over a draft GoM report proposing that the wholesale (business) should go to private entities. Arvind was asked to prepare the draft GoM report based on the said document. He said that it was the first time that he saw this proposal as the same was never discussed in any GoM meetings”, ED said.

In its sixth charge sheet filed in December 2023 against AAP leader Sanjay Singh, ED claimed that kickbacks worth 45 crore were used by AAP in the the Goa assembly elections campaign in 2022, making it a beneficiary of the proceeds of crime.

“AAP has benefited directly by using part of PoC (proceeds of crime) to the tune of 45 crore approximately in its election campaign in Goa,” it said.

Besides the party, the charge sheet also said that that “some AAP leaders also personally benefitted from the PoC”. ED claimed to have established that Sisodia got 2.2 crore bribe while Sanjay Singh got 2 crore and Vijay Nair got 1.5 crore. However, the ED or the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) have not yet directly linked any proceeds of crime to Kejriwal.

The financial crimes probe agency has so far filed six charge sheets in the excise policy probe against 31 individuals and entities. To date, ED has conducted searches at 245 locations across the country including Delhi, Hyderabad, Chennai, Mumbai and other places. It has also attached assets worth 128.79 crore under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 in the case.

All the leaders mentioned have denied charges, and the AAP has claimed the probe is “political vendetta” at the behest of the Union government led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

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