The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) on Tuesday claimed that the Enforcement Directorate (ED) has given a clean chit to AAP leader and Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia as it raided around 30 places in the Delhi excise case but did not raid Sisodia's place.
In addition to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the ED is also investigating the Delhi excise case. It is probing the money laundery angle while the CBI probes the criminal aspects. It is alleged that there are irregularities in the formulation and implementation of the policy. Sisodia is under the scanner as he holds the excise portfolio in the Arvind Kejriwal-led Delhi government.
The ED on Tuesday conducted searches at around 30 places across Delhi, Telangana, Maharashtra, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka. However, people whose properties are being raided on Tuesdau do not include those linked to Sisodia or any other government servant.
"It is a matter of happiness for the Aam Aadmi Party that the ED also has given a clean chit to Sisodia today after the CBI did so. The ED carried out raids at various locations but did not come to Manish Sisodia's residence despite him being the accused number-1. They developed cold feet. They left him because they felt that going to his house would be humiliating," said AAP's chief spokesperson Saurabh Bharadwaj.
There was no immediate reaction from the ED to the AAP's claim.
AAP on Monday claimed that the CBI had granted clean chit to Sisodia. The CBI categorically rejected the claim.
The CBI conducted raids in the Delhi excise case on August 19, covering the Delhi residences of Sisodia, IAS officer and former Delhi excise commissioner Arava Gopi Krishna, and 19 other locations across seven states and Union Territories. The ED took cognizance of the CBI's FIR and initiated its own investigation into the case under the criminal sections of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).
The ED, during its probe, will analyse if individuals and companies who were involved in the making of this scheme and related entities generated any "proceeds of crime under the definition of PMLA" and if there was any possible creation of illegal or benami assets, sources had said.
The ED has powers to attach such assets, and question, arrest and prosecute those who indulge in the offence of money laundering.
According to officials, the chief secretary's report had shown prima facie violations, including "deliberate and gross procedural lapses" to provide post-tender "undue benefits to liquor licensees" through the policy.
It is alleged that undue financial favours were extended to liquor licensees after the tenders were awarded, causing a loss to the exchequer.
The excise department gave a waiver of Rs 144.36 crore to the licensees on the tendered licence fee on the excuse of COVID-19, the sources claimed.
They added that it also refunded the earnest money of Rs 30 crore to the lowest bidder for the licence of the airport zone when it failed to obtain a no-objection certificate (NOC) from airport authorities.
"It was in gross violation of rule 48(11)(b) of the Delhi Excise Rules, 2010, which clearly stipulates that the successful bidder must complete all formalities for the grant of the licence, failing which all deposits made by him shall stand forfeited to the government," a source said.
While the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is projecting the ED-CBI probes as evidence of corruption by AAP, the AAP is alleging that the agencies are being misused by the BJP-led Union government. Earlier, Sisodia had claimed that the BJP had offered him the post of Chief Minister of Delhi and the closure of all cases against him if he switched to the BJP from AAP.
The Delhi government has accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of misusing the central probe agencies to frame Sisodia in "fake cases" and stop Kejriwal and his government from "contributing to education and health". The BJP alleged that the AAP leaders were afraid as their corruption was being exposed and were trying to divert attention from the excise policy "scam".
AAP's Bharadwaj said, "If it was the prime minister's fight against corruption as he says, the ED would have been carrying out raids against liquor mafia in Gujarat today. It's not a fight against corruption but against Kejriwal. This entire effort is to stop Kejriwal's work in education and health."
AAP Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh dubbed the ED’s raid as a “new drama” of the BJP and alleged that Modi has given “a clear instruction” to the probe agency “to recover anything – gold and assets –from anybody” that can be linked to Sisodia as the CBI failed to find anything incriminating against him.
“You will see this drama on the TV channels in the evening,” he added.
He dared the BJP-led Centre to ask the probe agency to carry out searches at Sisodia's residence and said like the CBI, it will also not find anything incriminating against him.
Behind all these raids, the sole objective of the Modi government is to “disturb” Sisodia and Kejriwal, “defame” their model of governance and “stop” their work in the education and health sectors in Delhi, Singh charged.
He alleged that Modi and the BJP are engaged "in the game of hatching conspiracies, filing fake cases and starting fake investigations against the AAP leaders".
"Entire country is watching how the prime minister’s probe agencies are taking action with malice,” he charged, adding, “You use your all might and deploy 1000 agencies. Nothing will be found against Sisodia from his residence.”
(With PTI inputs)