CBI summons Arvind Kejriwal in Delhi excise case; his party sees a PM Modi link | Latest News Delhi - Hindustan Times

CBI summons Arvind Kejriwal in Delhi excise case; his party sees a PM Modi link

Apr 14, 2023 07:03 PM IST

CM Arvind Kejriwal has been called for questioning as a witness at 11am on Sunday to seek clarifications on claims by witnesses and accused persons

NEW DELHI: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has issued summons to Aam Aadmi Party convenor and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal to question him on Sunday in connection with its probe into the Delhi excise policy case, people familiar with the development said.

Delhi chief minister and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) convenor Arvind Kejriwal.(PTI)
Delhi chief minister and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) convenor Arvind Kejriwal.(PTI)

To be sure, Kejriwal has been summoned as a “witness” in the case.

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Reacting to the CBI move, AAP leader Sanjay Singh said he had predicted that the agencies would go after Arvind Kejriwal when the chief minister sought to link Prime Minister Narendra Modi with billionaire Gautam Adani, in the Delhi assembly, a reference to Kejriwal’s accusation that the PM was helping the industrialist stay afloat despite his firms facing serious stock manipulation allegations. “And now this CBI summon has come,” Sanjay Singh told a hurriedly-convened Press conference.

Kejriwal is not named as an accused in the first information report (FIR) filed on August 17 last year but his name has come up during the questioning of some accused and witnesses. CBI wants to seek clarification, an official who asked not to be named said.

“The Delhi CM has been called for questioning as a witness at 11am on Sunday to seek clarifications on certain claims by witnesses and accused persons regarding the formulation and implementation of the policy,” the official said.

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has alleged in one of its charge sheets that the now-scrapped Delhi excise policy was the “brainchild” of Kejriwal. The chief minister’s name has also been mentioned on multiple occasions by investigators in court documents including charge sheets and remand papers.

For instance, ED said in its charge sheet filed in January this year that Kejriwal, in a video call arranged by AAP’s communications in-charge Vijay Nair with Sameer Mahendru, told the latter that “Vijay (Nair) is his boy and that he should trust him”.

“Nair had arranged a meeting of the owner of Indo Spirits – Sameer Mahendru (who is part of a super-cartel along with the alleged “South Group”) with Arvind Kejriwal, and when that didn’t materialize, he arranged a video call through FaceTime on his phone for Mahendru and Kejriwal, where Kejriwal said to Mahendru that Vijay (Nair) is his boy and that Mahendru should trust him and carry on with him,” said the ED charge sheet citing Mahendru’s statement recorded on November 15, 2022.

Subsequently, citing a December 7, 2022, statement recorded by former deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia’s then secretary C Arvind, the federal agency has claimed that the decision to fix a 12% profit margin for the wholesale private entities was conveyed to him (C Arvind) at Kejriwal’s residence in mid-March 2021. Sisodia was arrested by CBI in the excise case on February 26.

There was no discussion in the Group of Ministers (GoM) meetings – Sisodia, Satyendar Jain and Kailash Gehlot were in the GoM - about giving wholesale business to private entities before mid-March 2021, C Arvind has told the ED.

“Suddenly, in the mid-March 2021, C Arvind was called by Sisodia to Kejriwal’s residence (where Satyendar Jain was also present) and Sisodia handed over a document to C Arvind which was a draft GoM report proposing that wholesale should go to private entities and asked him to prepare the draft GoM report based on the said document. He said that it was the first time that he saw this proposal as the same was never discussed in any GoM meetings,” the charge sheet filed by ED alleged.

Agencies have also alleged that Kejriwal, Sisodia (currently in Tihar jail) and Nair are linked with the South Group (of politicians and businessmen), which got at least nine retail zones in Delhi’s liquor business in lieu of 100 crore allegedly paid to the AAP leaders.

The South Group, according to ED, comprises YSR Congress member of parliament Magunta Sreenivasulu Reddy or MSR, his son Raghav Magunta, Sarath Reddy (promoter of Aurobindo Group), and K Kavitha (daughter of Telangana chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao) and Delhi businessman Sameer Mahendru. It was represented by Abhishek Boinpally, Arun Pillai and Butchibabu Gorantla in the meetings with Aam Aadmi Party’s communications in-charge Vijay Nair and other liquor businessmen.

ED also alleged that YSR Congress member of parliament Magunta Sreenivasulu Reddy met Arvind Kejriwal to find out more about Delhi excise policy and “that Kejriwal has welcomed his entry in Delhi liquor trade; that MSR wanted business base in Delhi liquor and Delhi CM welcomed him”.

Subsequently, Butchibabu Gorantla, former accountant of K Kavitha (daughter of Telangana chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao), is alleged to have told the agencies on February 23 this year that “there was a political understanding between K Kavitha and the chief minister of Delhi (Arvind Kejriwal) and (former) deputy CM (Manish Sisodia) of Delhi. In that process, K Kavitha has also met (AAP’s communications in-charge) Vijay Nair on 19th-20th March, 2021”.

On AAP’s top leadership, ED alleged that the Delhi Excise policy 2021-22 “was created by the top leaders of the AAP to continuously generate and channel illegal funds to themselves”.

The excise policy, according to documents, “promoted cartel formations through backdoor, awarded exorbitant wholesale profit margin @ 12% and huge retail profit margin of 185% and incentivized other illegal activities on account of criminal conspiracy by the top leaders of AAP to extract kickbacks from the businesses”.

ED has alleged that a part of the 100 crore kickbacks generated in the Delhi excise policy was used in the AAP campaign in the 2022 Goa assembly election.

The agency has also pegged the loss in the excise policy irregularities at 2,873 crore.

The Delhi government’s 2021-22 excise policy aimed to revitalize the city’s flagging liquor business. It aimed to replace a sales-volume based regime with a license fee one for traders, and promised swankier stores, free of the infamous metal grilles, ultimately giving customers a better buying experience. The policy also introduced discounts and offers on the purchase of liquor, a first for Delhi.

The plan, however, came to an abrupt end, with Delhi’s lieutenant governor Vinai Kumar Saxena recommending a CBI probe into alleged irregularities in the regime. This ultimately resulted in the policy being scrapped prematurely and being replaced by the 2020-21 regime, with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) alleging that Saxena’s predecessor sabotaged the move with a few last-minute changes that resulted in lower-than-expected revenues.

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    Neeraj Chauhan, senior associate editor with the National Political Bureau of Hindustan Times, writes on security, terrorism, corruption, laundering, black money, narcotics, and related policy matters while covering MHA, ED, CBI, NIA, IB, CVC, NHRC, CAG, Income Tax department, etc.

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