Just a day after Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia dared the BJP to get him arrested based on a ‘sting operation’ by the party, the Enforcement Directorate is today conducting searches at 40 locations spread across multiple states as part of a money laundering investigation linked to alleged irregularities in the now-withdrawn Delhi excise policy, sources said.
Premises linked to liquor businessmen, distributors, and supply chain networks in Nellore and some other cities in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Delhi-NCR are being searched, officials sources said.
This is the second round of raids in as many weeks regarding the case. The probe agency had last week searched around 45 locations in Delhi, Telangana, Maharashtra, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, and Karnataka, in addition to raiding private individuals named in the case.
Today’s raids come early on a day when Delhi minister Satyendar Jain, arrested more than three months ago in a money laundering case, is also to be questioned regarding the liquor sales policy in Delhi’s Tihar jail.
Delhi Chief Minister and Aam Aadmi Party Chief Arvind Kejriwal, who has accused the Centre of misusing central probe agencies for political vendetta against his party leaders, and denied any irregularities in the controversial liquor policy, will address the media soon.
The liquor policy is being investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) as well as the Enforcement Directorate (ED), which probes financial crimes, following a directive from Delhi’s Lieutenant Governor VK Saxena, a representative of the BJP-led government at the centre.
The CBI had also conducted raids in the case on August 19, covering the Delhi residences of Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, IAS officer and former Delhi excise commissioner Arava Gopi Krishna, and 19 other locations across seven states and Union Territories. Mr Sisodia holds multiple portfolios in the Arvind Kejriwal-led Delhi government, including excise and education.
Action by central probe agencies on AAP ministers features prominently in the party’s Gujarat electoral campaign. It claims the ruling BJP is harassing its ministers and hindering the development work of the Delhi government as it is intimidated by public support for the party.
Delhi Deputy Chief Minister and AAP’s face for its big educational reforms claims, Manish Sisodia, has been raided and named an accused by the CBI in the case after the Lieutenant Governor ordered a probe in July. That same month, Arvind Kejriwal’s government withdrew the policy, which had come into force in November last year and brought private players into liquor trade. The AAP said the policy was for more revenue “but scuttled by the BJP’s central government using the Lieutenant Governor”.
The BJP says kickbacks were taken for contracts.
The BJP, releasing a secretly-recorded ‘sting’ video, had claimed that there was no doubt of the Delhi government’s collusion in corruption. The video showed Amit Arora — also named in the CBI’s FIR — allegedly explaining irregularities in the liquor policy. He could be heard claiming that the Delhi government deliberately kept smaller players out of its “tailor-made” excise policy to help a few persons.
The CBI has taken cognisance of the seven-minute video and is examining it for new facts. The probe agency has already questioned Amit Arora and searched his company M/s Buddy Retail Pvt Ltd.
The CBI says Amit Arora is a close associate of Manish Sisodia.
“BJP should give this so-called sting to the CBI, which anyway is working like an external agency of the party. In the next four days – till Monday – the CBI should arrest me if there’s any proof of corruption in this ‘sting’,” Mr Sisodia had said to reporters’ questions in the BJP’s allegations. “If they don’t, that’ll be proof that this is an attempt to overthrow our government by the BJP. Just an attempt to malign us.”