In fresh trouble for Delhi’s former deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Thursday arrested the senior AAP leader on money laundering charges in connection with alleged irregularities in the now-scrapped Delhi excise policy.
Sisodia is already in Tihar jail here after he was sent to 14-day judicial custody by a CBI court on March 6 in a related case lodged by the Central Bureau of Investigation in connection with alleged corruption in the formulation and implementation of the excise policy for 2021-22. He was arrested by the CBI on February 26.
The arrest of the Aam Aadmi Party(AAP) leader by the ED comes a day before the expected hearing of his bail plea before the CBI court on Friday.
Official sources said Sisodia was placed under arrest under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) following his second round of questioning at the Tihar jail.
The ED alleged Sisodia was “evasive” in his replies and was “not cooperating” in the probe and hence was arrested.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal alleged that his former deputy was being kept in jail on false charges and that he was arrested by the ED because he would have got bail.
“First, Manish(Sisodia) was arrested by the CBI. CBI did not find any evidence and no money was found during the raids. Tomorrow there is a bail hearing. He would have been released tomorrow. So ED arrested him today. They have only one aim — to keep Manish inside at all costs by slapping false cases. People are watching. They will reply,” Kejriwal said in a tweet in Hindi.
The first round of Sisodia’s questioning by the ED took place on March 7 after its three-member team obtained the court’s permission to question him during his judicial custody period.
The ED is expected to obtain a production warrant from a special PMLA court and then produce him before it on Friday seeking his custody for interrogation.
Even if Sisodia gets bail in the CBI case on Friday, the ED can seek his custody.
If the ED gets his custody, he will be taken to the agency’s headquarters in central Delhi for questioning and further recording of his statement and confrontation with other accused in the excise policy case.
Special Judge M K Nagpal, who sent Sisodia to judicial custody, had directed the CBI to file its response to the AAP leader’s bail application by March 10.
In his application, Sisodia stated that he had joined the investigation as and when called for by the central probe agency.
He further stated that no fruitful purpose would be served by keeping him in custody as all the recoveries have already been made, adding that the other accused persons arrested in this case have already been granted bail.
Meanwhile, Sisodia penned an open letter on ‘Politics of Education’ vs ‘Politics of Jail’ alleging that the BJP’s problem with politics of education is that it “builds nations, not leaders.”
“It is much easier to throw political opponents in jail than giving quality education to children. BJP’s real problem with politics of education is that it builds nations, not leaders,” the former Education minister of Delhi wrote.
“Politics of education is not an easy task and definitely not a recipe for political success. Today, politics of jail might be winning under the rule of the BJP, but the future belongs to politics of education.”
The ED is understood to have questioned Sisodia 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 then excise minister of Delhi. These charges were made by it in its chargesheets filed before the court.
The ED, as per sources, posed a specific query as to how the excise policy draft was allegedly available with liquor traders and purported cartels even before it was officially published by the excise department of the Delhi government.
The agency is also understood to have asked him about the meetings of the GoM attended/chaired by him on the liquor policy issue and his interactions with other ministers on this panel and also Chief Minister Kejriwal.
The ED has informed the court through its charge sheet that its probe found that at least 36 accused, including Sisodia, allegedly “destroyed, used or changed” 170 phones to conceal evidence of “kickbacks” worth thousands of crores of rupees in the alleged scam.
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.