The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Tuesday questioned and recorded the statement of former Delhi deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia for about five hours as part of its money laundering probe into alleged irregularities in the excise policy matter, official sources said.
The questioning is expected to continue over the next few days.
The federal probe agency also made a fresh arrest in this case as it took into custody Hyderabad-based liquor businessman Arun Ramchandra Pillai on Monday evening, they said.
The ED’s investigators reached the Tihar Jail to question and record the statement of Mr Sisodia under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).
The sources said the questioning ended after about 5 hours and the agency is expected to question him again on Wednesday or Thursday.
The CBI had arrested Mr Sisodia on February 26 in connection with alleged corruption in the formulation and implementation of the now-scrapped Delhi liquor or excise policy for 2021-22.
He is lodged in judicial custody till March 20.
The ED obtained the court’s permission to question the 51-year-old Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader, who till recently was the deputy Chief Minister of Delhi, in the cell number 1 of the jail for three days.
The agency is expected to question him about the alleged change and destruction of cellphones that were in his possession and the policy decisions and the timeline followed by him as the excise minister of Delhi. These charges were made by it in its chargesheets filed before the court.
At any point of the questioning, the ED may consider invoking section 19 of the PMLA that allows it to arrest people involved or accused in a case if the investigation officer has “reasons to believe” that the person is “guilty” of the offence of money laundering and is being “evasive” in replies.
However, the counsel for Mr Sisodia has told the court during CBI proceedings that this was a fabricated case against his client and there was no wrongdoing on his part.
The CBI, during its custody of Manish Sisodia, had confronted him with his former secretary C Arvind and then Excise commissioner Arava Gopi Krishna in connection with alleged manipulation of the excise policy.
Mr Sisodia was not mentioned as accused in the charge sheet of the CBI filed in the case on November 25 last year.
It is alleged that the Delhi government’s excise policy for 2021-22 to grant licences to liquor traders allowed cartelisation and favoured certain dealers, who had allegedly paid bribes for it, a charge strongly refuted by the AAP. The policy was later scrapped and the Delhi lieutenant governor recommended a CBI probe, following which the ED booked a case against the same accused under the PMLA.
The ED has informed the court through its charge sheet that its probe found that at least 36 accused, including Mr Sisodia, “destroyed, used or changed” 170 phones to conceal evidence of “kickbacks” worth thousands of crores of rupees in the alleged scam.
It had also named Manish Sisodia’s boss and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, in the second charge sheet filed in the case early this year, claiming that C Arvind, a DANICS officer who was earlier secretary to Mr Sisodia, recorded his statement under the PMLA saying he was given the GoM report on the excise policy in the middle of March 2021 when he was called by his boss (Sisodia) to the residence of Kejriwal.
In a linked development, Arun Pillai was taken into custody under the criminal sections of the PMLA on Monday evening following a long session of questioning. A Delhi court later sent him to ED custody till March 13.
Mr Pillai is a partner in a company called Robin Distilleries LLP whom the ED had said represented the ‘south group’ alleged liquor cartel linked to Telangana CM K Chandrasekhar Rao’s MLC daughter K Kavitha and others. He is also linked to arrested liquor businessman Sameer Mahandru, his wife Geetika Mahandru and their company Indospirit Group.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)
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