Thursday, April 18, 2024

ED, CBI arrest two persons in Delhi

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MLC Kavitha’s ex auditor Butchibabu ‘evasive, not cooperative’ n Fresh case against Sisodia recommended

PNS|New Delhi

The CBI and the Enforcement Directorate have made one arrest each – a former auditor of BRS MLC K Kavitha and a Punjab-based businessman – in cases related to alleged irregularities in the Delhi excise policy, officials said here on Wednesday.

The case, in which Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Siodia is an accused, saw a fresh turn with the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) recommending registration of a separate case against him for allegedly using a department under the Delhi government for collecting “political intelligence”.

The CBI placed Butchibabu Gorantla, former chartered accountant of Kavitha, the daughter of Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao, under arrest on Tuesday night after he was called for questioning to the agency headquarters. The agency claimed that he was evasive and was not cooperating with investigators.

The ED, probing the money laundering charges linked to the matter, arrested Gautam Malhotra, businessman son of former SAD MLA and liquor baron Deep Malhotra, from Punjab. He was taken into custody in the money laundering case of the ED on Tuesday night.

The Delhi excise policy for 2021-22 was scrapped in August last year and the Delhi lieutenant governor later asked the CBI to probe the alleged irregularities. Both the agencies registered separate cases with Sisodia being the accused number one. Sisodia’s troubles may also grow as the CBI found in a preliminary enquiry that the feedback unit (FBU) set up by the Delhi government to check corruption allegedly collected “political intelligence”. The CBI has recommended that an FIR be registered against the deputy chief minister.

About the ED arrest, officials said Malhotra is the promoter of the Oasis group of Punjab and he was taken into custody under the criminal sections of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

They alleged he was “evasive” in his replies and his role with regard to the charges of cartelisation vis-a-vis the excise policy formulated by the Delhi government is under the radar of the agency.

Malhotra’s liquor manufacturing and distribution business is spread across Punjab and some other regions like Delhi and Uttar Pradesh, officials said. The federal probe agency had raided premises linked to Malhotra’s group last year in Punjab’s Faridkot and some other locations.

Gorantla was arrested after he was called to Delhi by the CBI for questioning. He was questioned 15 times between August and October last year at the agency’s offices in New Delhi and Hyderabad.

The CBI questioned Gorantla from February 1 to 4 this year too in connection with the allegations and was confronted with the available evidence.

The officials said he concealed material facts related to the conspiracy behind the alleged offence, incriminating WhatsApp chats retrieved from his mobile phones, the role of the other accused, including public servants, as well as the trail of the ill-gotten money sent by the accused through hawala channels.

The agency produced him before a special court here which sent him to CBI custody till February 11.

The CBI will try to unearth the larger conspiracy hatched among the suspects regarding formulation and implementation of the excise policy, money trail, and the role of other accused persons including public servants.

The CBI has alleged that Gorantla’s role in the formulation and implementation of the now-scrapped excise policy caused “wrongful gain” to Hyderabad-based wholesale and retail licensees and their beneficial owners.

The agency has alleged that a scrutiny of WhatsApp chats recovered from the seized mobile phones of Gorantla shows “certain incriminating facts about the formulation and implementation of the Delhi Excise Policy.”

“He has been remained in regular touch with FIR named accused persons and other suspects during the relevant period,” the CBI said while seeking remand from the special court.

He has also attended various meetings with some of the accused in Delhi, Mumbai and Hyderabad where “conspiracy was being hatched”, they said.

The CBI filed its charge sheet on November 25, 2022 against seven persons, including businessmen Vijay Nair, Abhishek Boinpally, Arun R.Pillai, Mootha Goutham and Sameer Mahendru.

The ED, till now, has filed two charge sheets or prosecution complaints in this case and has arrested a total of seven people, including Malhotra.

It has alleged in a charge sheet submitted to the court that a part of the alleged Rs 100 crore “kickbacks” generated in the scrapped Delhi excise policy was “used” in the 2022 Goa assembly election campaign of the Arvind Kejriwal-led party.

“Investigation by ED found that acts of corruption and conspiracy in the formulation and implementation of Delhi Excise Policy 2021-22 led to the loss of at least Rs 2,873 crore to the government exchequer.”

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