BRS leader K Kavitha Tuesday said she is submitting the phones used by her so far to the Enforcement Directorate (ED) as she appeared for questioning before the agency in the Delhi excise policy linked money laundering case.
What was the letter about?
In a letter to the ED, the 44-year-old MLC daughter of Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao, said "These phones are submitted without prejudice to my right and contentions and larger contentions whether a woman's phone can be intruded, in the teeth of her right to privacy".
Before she entered the agency's office here, Kavitha flashed some mobile phones kept in a transparent sheet, and said she was going to submit them to the ED.
Referring to the agency's allegation in its first charge sheet filed in this case last year that she was using at least two mobile numbers whose IMEI changed 10 times, Kavitha said, "It is baffling to note as to how, why and under what such circumstances agency made such allegations when I was not even summoned or asked any questions whatsoever".
Accusing the agency of making insinuations against her, the BRS leader said she is submitting the phones to dispel any notion or "adverse impression" that the agency is allegedly trying to create.
The "deliberate leakage of the false accusation" to the public, she charged, has led to a political slugfest, wherein her political adversaries have been flaunting the accusations, to accuse her of destroying the so-called evidence and causing great harm to her reputation and attempting to defame her and her political party.
"It is unfortunate that a premier agency like the Enforcement Directorate is becoming privy and party to these acts and sabotaging and sacrificing its sacrosanct duty of free and fair investigation at the altar of vested political interest," she charged.
This was the third deposition of Kavitha before the federal probe agency. She has spent around 18-19 hours at the ED headquarters in central Delhi during her two appearances on March 11 and March 20.
The Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) leader exited the agency office around 9:15 pm on Monday after she was questioned and her statement was recorded as investigators, as per sources, put across around a dozen questions to her.
Kavitha, Pillai and the 'South Group'
Kavitha is also understood to have been confronted with the statements made by Hyderabad-based businessman Arun Ramchandran Pillai, an arrested accused in the case who allegedly shares close ties with her, apart from those of few others involved in the case.
The politician has asserted that she had done nothing wrong and alleged that the BJP-led Centre was "using" the ED as the saffron party could not gain a "backdoor entry" into Telangana.
Pillai, the ED had said, "represented the South Group", an alleged liquor cartel linked to Kavitha and others, that paid kickbacks amounting to about Rs 100 crore to the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) to gain a larger share of the market in the national capital under the now-scrapped Delhi excise policy for 2020-21.
The "South Group", according to the ED, comprises Sarath Reddy (promoter of Aurobindo Pharma), Magunta Srinivasulu Reddy (YSR Congress MP from Ongole Lok Sabha seat in Andhra Pradesh), his son Raghav Magunta, Kavitha and others.
The ED also alleged in Pillai's remand papers that he "represented the benami investments" of Kavitha in the case.
Kavitha has earlier been questioned by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in connection with the case at her residence in Hyderabad.
ED's investigation so far
The ED has so far arrested 12 people in the case, including former Delhi deputy chief minister and AAP leader Manish Sisodia.
It has also recorded the statement of Butchibabu, an accountant allegedly linked to Kavitha, in which he said that "there was political understanding between K Kavitha and chief minister (Arvind Kejriwal) and the deputy chief minister (Sisodia). In that process, K Kavitha also met Vijay Nair on March 19-20, 2021".
Nair was arrested in the case by both the ED and the CBI. Butchibabu has been arrested by the CBI and has been questioned recently again by the ED.
According to Butchibabu's statement, Nair was "trying to impress Kavitha with what he could do in the (excise) policy".
"Vijay Nair was acting on behalf of Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia," the statement recorded by the ED read.
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 subsequently scrapped and the Delhi lieutenant governor recommended a CBI probe, following which the ED registered a case under the PMLA.
(With PTI Inputs)