ED arrests Manish Sisodia after questioning him at Tihar jail, accepts K Kavitha’s request
Sisodia was arrested by the CBI on February 26. and d Delhi court had on Monday sent him to judicial custody till March 20
New Delhi: The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Thursday arrested former deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) for being evasive during a seven-hour interrogation earlier in the day, people familiar with the development said.
Sisodia was arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on February 26 in connection with alleged irregularities in the framing and implementation of the Delhi excise policy 2021-22. He is in Tihar Jail in judicial custody till March 20. The ED arrest comes a day before the special CBI court is set to hear Sisodia’s bail plea.
Sisodia, authorities said, was arrested inside Tihar Jail and will be produced before a special court on Friday, where ED will seek his formal custody. ED officials alleged Sisodia was “evasive in his replies” during questioning and was “not cooperating’ with the probe team.
“The arrest and custody will allow us sustained interrogation about various aspects of the policy at the ED headquarters,” said an officer, who asked not to be named.
ED on Thursday questioned Sisodia for the second time inside Tihar Jail about his role and links in the Delhi excise policy irregularities, in which ₹100 crore bribe was allegedly paid to the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leaders in lieu of favouring certain liquor businessmen and politicians.
People familiar with the interrogation said Sisodia was interrogated on various aspects of the case, including the alleged destruction of evidence (he allegedly changed phones frequently), changing profit margin for wholesalers from 5% to an “unprecedented” 12%, kickbacks paid by the alleged “South Group” to Vijay Nair on behalf of AAP leaders and about the decision to change policy related Group of Ministers (GoM) report.
“We are currently focusing on larger conspiracy and the money trail,” said an official, who didn’t want to be named.
Also Read:Delhi excise policy case: ED grills Manish Sisodia for 6 hours in Tihar jail
Meanwhile, K Kavitha, daughter of Telangana chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao, who was scheduled to appear before ED on Thursday, said she will present herself before the agency on March 11.
People familiar with the development said they have accepted her request.
The Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) lawmaker Kavitha landed in the national capital on Thursday.
“I will be appearing before ED in New Delhi on March 11, 2023”, she tweeted on Wednesday.
Earlier this week, she said she will fully cooperate with the probe agency but will seek legal opinion on the date of deposition in view of her proposed dharna in Delhi on March 10 in support of the women’s reservation bill.
Kavitha said, “These tactics of intimidation against the fight of my father and chief minister K Chandrashekar Rao, and the BRS will not deter us.”
ED is expected to confront her with Arun Ramachandra Pillai, who allegedly represented Kavitha’s interests in the South Group and was arrested on Tuesday.
The federal agency has claimed that Pillai represented the benami investments of Kavitha. He was allegedly actively involved in cartel formation and was an accomplice in kickbacks from the South Group to the tune of ₹100 crore to the AAP.
The South Group comprises YSR Congress MP Magunta Srinivasulu Reddy, his son Raghav Magunta, Sarath Reddy (promoter of Aurobindo Group), and K Kavitha and Delhi-based businessman Sameer Mahendru. Abhishek Boinpally, Pillai and Butchibabu allegedly represented the group in meetings with Vijay Nair and other liquor businessmen.
The Delhi government’s 2021-22 excise policy aimed to revitalize the city’s flagging liquor business. It aimed to replace a sales-volume-based regime with a licence fee-based one for traders, and promised swankier stores, free of the infamous metal grilles, ultimately giving customers a better buying experience. The policy also introduced discounts and offers on the purchase of liquor, a first for Delhi.
The plan, however, came to an abrupt end, with lieutenant governor VK Saxena recommending a CBI probe into alleged irregularities in the regime. This ultimately resulted in the policy being scrapped prematurely and being replaced by the 2020-21 regime, with the AAP alleging that Saxena’s predecessor sabotaged the move with a few last-minute changes that resulted in lower-than-expected revenues.