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Delhi Excise Policy Case: Manish Sisodia Claims BJP Offered Him CM Post, CBI Questions Key Accused Sameer Mahendru

As Delhi Deputy CM Manish Sisodia alleged that BJP offered to clear all cases if he switches party, the CBI questioned Sameer Mahendru. The CBI is probing at least two payments in crores allegedly made to 'close associates' of Sisodia by Mahendru, who was actively involved in alleged irregularities in the excise policy.

Delhi Deputy CM Manish Sisodia
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As the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) continues probing the alleged irregularities in the Delhi Excise Policy, Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia on Monday claimed that he was "offered the CM's post" by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and closure of all cases if he switched parties.

On their part, the BJP accused Sisodia of trying to deflect attention from the corruption charges.

Sisodia's comments come on the day the CBI is questionning Sameer Mahendru, Managing Director of Indospirit. The CBI has alleged that two instances where Mahendru made payments totalling about Rs 4-5 crore to "close associates" of Sisodia. 

Sisodia's "close associates" —Amit Arora, director of Buddy Retail Pvt. Limited in Gurugram; Dinesh Arora and Arjun Pandey— were "actively involved in managing and diverting the undue pecuniary advantage collected from liquor licensees" to the accused public servants, according to the FIR of CBI, which has also allged that Radha Industries managed by Arora received Rs 1 crore from Mahendru.

AAP and BJP spar over CBI's probe

While claiming that he got the offer to join BJP, Manish Sisodia also played the caste card. 

He said, "I have received a message from the BJP — leave AAP and join BJP. We will ensure that all cases by CBI and ED against you are shut. My reply to BJP — I am a descendant of Maharana Pratap and a Rajput. I am ready to get beheaded but can never bow down before conspirators and corrupt people. All the cases against me are false. Do whatever you want to do."

Later addressing a press conference in Ahmedabad, Sisodia said he was surprised when someone came to him with a message that he has two offers from the BJP.

He claimed, "The messenger said one was that all big cases registered against you by CBI-ED will be taken back. The other offer was that I break the party and they will make you chief minister. I gave a clear political answer to them, saying Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal is my political guru and I have learnt politics from him. I have not come into politics to be CM or PM."

Launching a sharp counter-attack, BJP national spokesperson Gaurav Bhatia said Kejriwal is frustrated.

He said, "I can only say, those whose intentions are faulty, and thinking is small, who can break them."

He also told reporters that these AAP leaders will "play victim cards and several other cards" now to deflect attention from the corruption charges.

"Questions of corruption have been raised on Arvind Kejriwal and his deputy, but Delhi CM running away with goal posts," Bhatia added.

BJP MP Manoj Tiwari asked Sisodia to name the person who made these offers from the party. Neither Sisodia nor other leaders such as Atishi or Saurabh Bhardwaj backing Sisodia mentioned the name of any leader who made the alleged offer.

The CBI's questioning continues

After recording statements of three accused in the Delhi excise policy case on Saturday, the CBI continued its probe on Monday when it questioned Sameer Mahendru. 

The CBI in its FIR has mentioned two instances where Mahendru allegedly made payments totalling about Rs 4-5 crore to "close associates" of Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia.

According to the FIR, Sisodia's "close associates" —Amit Arora, director of Buddy Retail Pvt. Limited in Gurugram; Dinesh Arora and 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 alleged that Radha Industries managed by Arora received Rs 1 crore from Mahendru.

Officials said that the CBI has already questioned Hyderabad-based businessman Arun Ramachandra Pillai once while Mahendru is being questioned again in connection with the case.

The CBI claims: "Source further revealed that Arun Ramchandra Pillai used to collect undue pecuniary advantage from Sameer Mahendru for onward transmission to the accused public servants through Vijay Nair. A person named Arjun Pandey has once collected a huge cash amount of about Rs 2-4 crore from Sameer Mahendru on behalf of Vijay Nair."

Sisodia is under the CBI scanner as he holds the excise portfolio in the Delhi Cabinet. Besides him, the CBI has also named as accused the then excise commissioner Arava Gopi Krishna, then deputy excise commissioner Anand Kumar Tiwari, assistant excise commissioner Pankaj Bhatnagar, nine businessmen and two companies.

The FIR was registered on a reference from the office of Lieutenant Governor V K Saxena routed through the Union Home Ministry. It's alleged that Sisodia and other accused public servants recommended and took decisions on the excise policy 2021-22 without the approval of competent authority with "an intention to extend undue favours to the licencees post tender". 

The ED might get involved too

The CBI has shared the copy of the FIR with the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and it's expected that it might also get involved in the case.

While the CBI might pursue the criminal aspects of the case, the ED might follow the money trail.

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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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(With PTI inputs)

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