Just a day after Delhi’s deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia challenged the BJP to have him arrested on the basis of a “sting operation” by the party, the Enforcement Directorate is today conducting house searches at 40 locations across multiple states as part of of a money laundering investigation linked to alleged irregularities in Delhi’s now-repealed excise tax policy, sources said.
Buildings associated with liquor merchants, distributors and supply chain networks in Nellore and some other cities in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Delhi-NCR are being searched, official sources said.
This is the second round of raids in as many weeks related to the case. The investigative agency had searched about 45 locations in Delhi, Telangana, Maharashtra, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka last week, in addition to raiding 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 about liquor sales policies at Delhi’s Tihar prison.
Delhi Chief Minister and Aam Aadmi Party Chief Arvind Kejriwal, who has accused the Center of abusing central investigative agencies for political vendetta against its party leaders, and has denied any irregularity in the controversial drink policy, will soon address the media.
Alcohol policy is under investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED), which investigates financial crimes, following a directive from Delhi’s Lieutenant Governor VK Saxena, a representative of the BJP-led government to the Centre.
The CBI had also raided the case on Aug. 19, at the homes of Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, IAS officer and former Delhi Excise Commissioner Arava Gopi Krishna, and 19 other locations in seven states and Union Territories. Mr. Sisodia holds multiple portfolios in the Arvind Kejriwal-led government of Delhi, including excise and education.
Action by central investigative agencies against AAP ministers features prominently in the party’s election campaign in Gujarat. It alleges that the ruling BJP is harassing its ministers and hindering the development work of the Delhi government because it is intimidated by public support for the party.
Delhi Deputy Chief Minister and AAP’s face for his major advancements in education reform, Manish Sisodia, has been ambushed and named an accused in the case by the CBI after the lieutenant governor ordered an investigation in July. That same month, Arvind Kejriwal’s government repealed the policy, which came into effect last November, and brought private players into the liquor trade. The AAP said the policy was for more revenue “but sunk by the central government of the BJP with the help of the lieutenant governor”.
The BJP says kickbacks were taken for contracts.
The BJP, which released a secretly recorded ‘sting’ video, claimed there was no doubt about the Delhi government’s collusion in corruption. The video showed Amit Arora – also named in the CBI’s FIR – allegedly explaining drinking policy irregularities. He was heard to claim that the Delhi government deliberately kept smaller players out of its “tailored” excise tax policy to help a few individuals.
The CBI has taken note of the seven-minute video and is investigating it for new facts. The research firm has already questioned Amit Arora and his company M/s Buddy Retail Pvt Ltd.
The CBI says that Amit Arora is a close associate of Manish Sisodia.
“The BJP should give this so-called sting to the CBI, which works as an outside agency of the party anyway. In the next four days – until Monday – the CBI should arrest me if there is any evidence of corruption in this ‘prick’ ‘,” Mr Sisodia had said to reporters’ questions in the BJP’s allegations. “If they don’t, that will be proof that this is an attempt to overthrow our government by the BJP. Just an attempt to defame us.”