Kejriwal directly enjoyed excise 'scam' kickbacks; Group of Ministers a sham: ED

Delhi Chief Minister and AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal at the Rouse Avenue Court where he has been produced by the CBI seeking his custody in a money laundering case related to the Delhi liquor policy, in New Delhi, Wednesday, June 26, 2024.
Delhi Chief Minister and AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal at the Rouse Avenue Court where he has been produced by the CBI seeking his custody in a money laundering case related to the Delhi liquor policy, in New Delhi, Wednesday, June 26, 2024.

New Delhi | Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal "directly used" part of the alleged Rs 100 crore generated from the "kickbacks" of the Delhi excise policy "scam" by staying in a luxury hotel in Goa, the ED has claimed in its charge sheet filed against the AAP supremo.

The federal probe agency also said the GoM (Group of Ministers) constituted by his government in this context was a "sham".

A special Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) court on Tuesday took cognisance of the prosecution complaint, filed on May 17, and issued a production warrant for the jailed Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader for July 12.

The 55-year-old politician and the AAP have been named as accused in this seventh supplementary charge sheet filed in the case.

Regarding Kejriwal's role, the 209-page charge sheet said, "Arvind Kejriwal, Chief Minister of NCT of Delhi is the kingpin and key conspirator of the Delhi excise scam in collusion with ministers of Delhi govt, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leaders and other persons."

The AAP, which rules Delhi and Punjab, responded to the ED charge sheet on Tuesday saying the BJP-led government at the Centre was hatching a "big conspiracy" against the party and that the political outfit was being finished off.

"Arvind Kejriwal has directly used part of these proceeds of crime personally by making Chanpreet Singh (another accused in the case) to make payment for Sh Arvind Kejriwal stay and event at the Grand Hyatt, Goa," the agency claimed.

It said that Kejriwal also "mingled" these proceeds of crime with the funds of the Delhi government.

It has been alleged that the 'South Group' of politicians and liquor businessmen gave Rs 100 crore worth of kickbacks to gain a favourable position in the Delhi excise policy for 2021-22 and out of these funds, Rs 45 crore was sent for the AAP campaign in Goa during the 2022 assembly polls.

"The AAP kept the expenses made out of the proceeds of crime of Rs 45 crore out of the books and did not disclose the same to the Election Commission of India," it said.

In this manner, it alleged, Kejriwal "had the control over the proceeds of crime of Rs 100 crore at each stage, and thus activity of generation, acquisition and possession, transfer use and concealment and projection of the same as untainted carried out on this proceeds of crime by Sh Arvind Kejriwal".

The agency said Kejriwal was "liable" to be punished for his role in commission of offence of money laundering under section 4 of the PMLA and also "vicariously" as he is responsible for the conduct of the business/affairs of the AAP, deemed a company under section 70 of the PMLA.

The agency recorded Kejriwal's statement 11 times since he was arrested on March 21 from his official bungalow in Delhi, but alleged that he gave "evasive replies" and "concealed information" during his custodial interrogation.

The ED said it has seized a number of digital devices used by Kejriwal but he refused to open these gadgets and this denial was recorded in writing and captured in the video footage of his questioning.

In his defence, Kejriwal told ED interrogators that his lawyers have advised him that he is "not required" to share the password of these devices, the charge sheet said.

"Kejriwal who is the ultimate in-charge of AAP and was intrinsically involved in the acts of policy formulation, kickback scheme and the final use of the proceeds of crime thus generated including conspiracy thereof," the ED claimed.

It said Kejriwal being the National convenor and member of the national executive of AAP, was ultimately responsible for the funds being used in the election expenses including in the Goa assembly elections.

The agency claimed that another accused in the case-- Vinod Chauhan-- was "managing postings" for officers in Delhi Jal Board (DJB) "through" Arvind Kejriwal.

It is alleged that Chauhan was responsible for transfer of Rs 25.5 crore from Delhi to Goa, out of the alleged kickbacks of Rs 45 crore meant for poll campaign.

The ED said the GoM constituted by the Delhi government was "a sham as revealed by statements of the excise officials who revealed that they were never consulted on any major policy decision."

It said Delhi Transport minister Kailash Gehlot recorded his statement with the agency saying that he "simply agreed to the policy changes since Manish Sisodia (former Delhi deputy CM and excise minister) was a senior leader and he had told that increase in the profit margin from 5 per cent to 12 per cent was a good proposal and thus he (Gahlot) accepted it".

The ED has alleged that the excise policy was brought in by the leaders of the AAP as "an outcome of the conspiracy of quid pro quo to continuously generate and channel illegal funds to themselves and certain private individuals."

The charge sheet also said Vijay Nair was his "close associate" and acted as a middleman for getting bribes or kickbacks from various stakeholders in the Delhi liquor business in exchange for favourable outcomes in the policy being drafted and Kejriwal demanded kickbacks from the South Group in exchange for awarding favours to them in the formulation and implementation of the policy.

It said when certain L1 wholesalers refused to give kickbacks to the AAP in Delhi, their businesses were targeted in Punjab through the state officials and so he played a role in arm-twisting them.

It said BRS leader K Kavitha "conspired with the members of the South Group and the AAP leaders through Vijay Nair to pay kickbacks to the tune of Rs 100 crore and receive undue benefits".

Regarding Kejriwal's conduct, the charge sheet said he submitted false information and evasive replies during his custodial interrogation.

"On being asked about the extent of interaction and reporting of Vijay Nair to the accused Arvind Kejriwal, he stated that Vijay Nair didn't report to him but to Atishi Marlena and Saurav Bharadwaj and his interaction with Sh Vijay Nair was limited. However, the statements of Vijay Nair himself reveal that he stayed in a cabinet minister's bungalow and worked from the camp office of the CM," it said citing an example of his "misleading replies".

"The accused has even given false and contrary evidence vis-à-vis other members of the AAP and contrary to the facts and records available. When he was confronted with the statements given by his own party leaders he has called them confused," the charge sheet added.

The excise case pertains to alleged corruption and money laundering in formulating and executing the Delhi government's excise policy for 2021-22, which was later scrapped.

Delhi Lieutenant Governor V K Saxena had recommended a CBI probe into the alleged irregularities. Subsequently, the ED registered a case under the PMLA.

Taking cognisance of a CBI FIR lodged on August 17, 2022, the ED filed its money laundering case on August 22, 2022, to probe the alleged irregularities.

Victim of witch-hunt, falsely implicated in motivated case: Kejriwal to Delhi HC

New Delhi | Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has contended before the Delhi High Court that he is a victim of "witch-hunt" by the ED and that cancellation of his bail granted by a trial court in the excise policy-linked money laundering case would tantamount to "grave miscarriage of justice".

Opposing the Enforcement Directorate's plea challenging his bail in the case, the embattled chief minister said discretionary orders of bail cannot be set aside merely on "perceptions and fanciful imagination" of the prosecution.

“The order passed by the special judge granting bail was not only well reasoned but prima facie showed a due application of mind in considering as well as faithfully recording and dealing with ‘relevant arguments and contentions raised on behalf of both the parties’.

"Therefore, to cancel the order would tantamount to grave miscarriage of justice,” Kejriwal said in his reply filed to the ED’s petition.

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) national convener urged the high court to dismiss ED’s petition and to vacate the June 25 interim order by which the trial court’s June 20 decision granting him bail was stayed.

On Wednesday, Justice Neena Bansal Krishna, who was scheduled to hear the ED’s plea, was informed by the counsel for the probe agency that they were served with Kejriwal’s reply to their petition only late Tuesday night and the agency required some time to file a rejoinder.

While the probe agency’s lawyer submitted that the copy of the reply was served to them at 11 pm on Tuesday, Kejriwal’s counsel maintained that it was served to the investigating officer (IO) of the case at 1 pm.

Senior advocate Abhishek Singhvi, representing Kejriwal, mentioned the matter before the court, saying a specific time be fixed for the hearing as there is extreme urgency in the case.

However, Additional Solicitor General S V Raju, appearing for the ED, submitted that the agency was served with the reply copy of Kejriwal only on Tuesday night and they need some time to go through the response and file their rejoinder to it.

He contended that the documents are supposed to be served to the advocate appearing in the case and not the IO.

The court said it is not disputed that the ED was served with the reply copy on Tuesday and the agency was entitled to file a rejoinder to it. The court granted time to the ED to file its rejoinder and listed the matter for hearing on July 15.

Kejriwal, in his reply, contended that the arrest was "illegally made to harass and humiliate" a political opponent and there was no material in possession of ED on the basis of which further incarceration can be justified.

“ED has implicated the respondent (Kejriwal) in a false and concocted story, no case is made out against the respondent and the arrest in the instant matter is absolutely illegal,” the reply claimed.

It further said, “The respondent is victim of witch-hunt and standard modus operandi adopted by ED to implicate its given targets wherein the ED uses illegal measures of pressurising the other co-accused and inducing them to make incriminating statement in lieu of ‘no-objection’ by ED to the grant of bail of such co-accused”.

Countering the ED’s contention that it was not given adequate opportunity by the trial court to argue its case, Kejriwal said merely because the court had regulated and controlled the manner of proceedings or asked the ED’s counsel to be brief can by no stretch of imagination be construed as curtailment of an opportunity.

“All the submissions made by ED are not only untenable in law but also reflect their apathy, insensitivity and overbearing as well as overreaching attitude towards courts of law,” the reply said.

The Delhi CM contended that no offence of money laundering was made out against him and his life and liberty must be protected from "unwarranted and unjustified violation" at the hands of the ED on the basis of a "false, malicious and motivated case".

"There exists no proof or material demonstrating that the AAP received funds or advanced kickbacks from the South group, let alone utilising them in the Goa election campaign. Not a single rupee was traced back to the AAP, and the allegations put forth in this regard are devoid of any tangible evidence, rendering them vague, baseless without any corroboration," the reply said.

It added there was no link established by the ED to claim that Rs 45 crore was transferred by the South group as advanced kickback which was then allegedly utilised by AAP in Goa elections.

On June 20, Kejriwal was granted bail by a trial court here on a personal bond of Rs 1 lakh.

The ED moved the high court the next day and contended that the trial court's order was "perverse", "one-sided" and "wrong-sided" and that the findings were based on irrelevant facts.

The high court, on June 21, imposed an interim stay on the trial court’s bail order till passing of an order on ED’s application for interim relief. It had issued notice and asked Kejriwal to file a reply to ED’s petition.

On June 25, the high court passed a detailed order staying the trial court order.

Kejriwal was arrested by the ED and the CBI on March 21 and June 26 respectively in the money laundering and corruption cases.

The excise policy was scrapped in 2022 after the Delhi lieutenant governor ordered a CBI probe into alleged irregularities and corruption involving its formulation and execution.

According to the CBI and the ED, irregularities were committed while modifying the excise policy and undue favours extended to licence holders.

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