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Delhi Excise Policy Case: CBI Starts Questioning Accused, Shares FIR With ED Which May Start Money Laundering Probe

The CBI is probing at least two payments in crores allegedly made to 'close associates' of Manish Sisodia by Sameer Mahendru, the owner of Indospirits, who was one of the liquor traders actively involved in alleged irregularities in the framing and implementation of the excise policy.

Delhi Deputy CM Manish Sisodia
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The Central Bureau Of Investigation (CBI) on Saturday began recording statements of the accused in the Delhi Excise Policy case and also shared its FIR with the Enforcement Directorate (ED).

While the CBI looks after the criminal aspects of the case, the ED might start following the money trail to start a money laundering investigation into the case. 

The CBI on Saturday recorded the statements of three of the accused in the alleged corruption case related to the implementation of the Delhi Excise Policy, officials said, adding that the it's also examining the documents seized on Friday during raids.

The recording of statements came after CBI carried out searches at 31 locations on Friday across seven states and Union territories, including the Delhi residence of Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia. The residence of IAS officer and former Delhi excise commissioner Arava Gopi Krishna was also raided. In all, raids were conducted in Delhi, Gurugram, Chandigarh, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Lucknow, and Bengaluru. Officials added that "incriminating" documents, articles, and digital records were also recovered.

The three accused were called to the CBI headquarters where their statements were recorded and they were confronted with some documents of financial transactions recovered during the searches, the officials said, without elaborating. They  were questioned for nearly 12 hours after which they were allowed to go home. Officials added some of them will be called again for questioning.

The officials said once the process of examining the documents and electronic gadgets as well as the bank transactions is completed, summons will be issued to other accused.

What's under the CBI's scanner?

The CBI is investigating alleged corruption and bribery in the formulation and execution of the Delhi Excise Policy brought out last November. It was scrapped by Delhi government in July. 

Sisodia holds multiple portfolios in the Arvind Kejriwal-led Delhi Cabinet, including that of the excise. 

The CBI is probing at least two payments in crores allegedly made to "close associates" of Manish Sisodia by Sameer Mahendru, the owner of Indospirits. Mahendru was one of the liquor traders actively involved in alleged irregularities in the framing and implementation of the excise policy.

The FIR alleged that Sisodia's "close associates" —Amit Arora, director of Buddy Retail Pvt. Limited in Gurugram; Dinesh Arora; Arjun Pandey— were "actively involved in managing and diverting the undue pecuniary advantage collected from liquor licensees" to the accused public servants.

The CBI has invoked the IPC section related to criminal conspiracy and provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act. Public servants including Krishna, former Deputy Excise Commissioner Anand Tiwari and assistant excise commissioner Pankaj Bhatnagar, nine businessmen and two companies are among those named in the FIR.

Sisodia is also among the 15 accused named in its FIR.  The search operations continued for nearly 15 hours at Sisodia's house and the CBI team left the place at around 11 pm.

The searches at Sisodia's home, the residence of IAS officer and former excise commissioner Arava Gopi Krishna, and 29 other places took place after the CBI registered an FIR for alleged corruption and bribery in the formulation and execution of the Delhi Excise Policy brought out last November, officials said.

"It was alleged that irregularities were committed including in modifications in Excise Policy, extending undue favours to the licencees, waiver/reduction in licence fee, extension of L-1 licence without approval, etc.," the CBI's spokesperson said in a statement on Friday.

BJP and AAP spar over Delhi Excise Policy case

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) condemned the raids with Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal claiming the agency has been "asked from above" to harass its leaders.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) asked the Delhi government to come out clean on its excise policy.

The policy was withdrawn in July this year after Delhi Lt Governor VK Saxena called for a CBI probe. The FIR on August 17 was based on a reference from the Lieutenant Governor's office routed through the Union Home Ministry.

Speaking to reporters after the raid, Sisodia had said on Friday, "The CBI team reached in the morning and searched the whole house. My family and I extended them full cooperation. They seized my computer and mobile phone. They also took away some files."

He alleged that the Centre was misusing the agency to stop the Arvind Kejriwal government from "doing good work" in Delhi. The CBI, which registered an FIR in a special court here on Wednesday, began its raids from 8 am in seven states.The damaging allegations in the FIR, based on "source information", state that Sisodia and the accused public servants took decisions pertaining to the excise policy 2021-22 without the approval of competent authority with "an intention to extend undue favours to the licencees post tender".

How ED might get involved?

It is also believed that ED might also get involved in the case.

The ED may initiate a money laundering investigation over the framing and execution of the excise policy. The ED is understood to be examining details of the CBI case, involvement of various government officials and private individuals and the possible trail of illegal money generated in the process before it files a formal case. 

If and when ED starts its investigation, it will analyse if individuals and companies who were involved in the policy making and related entities generated any "proceeds of crime under the definition of PMLA [Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002]" and if there was any possible creation of illegal or benami assets, sources earlier told PTI.

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The ED has powers to attach such assets and question, arrest and prosecute those who indulge in the offence of money laundering.

(With PTI inputs)

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