New Delhi: A city court on Friday sent Manish Sisodia, arrested in a money laundering case related to the excise policy, to ED cutody till March 17, after the federal agency sought the former Delhi deputy chief minister’s remand to further unravel the conspiracy through which he was alleged to have generated proceeds of crime of more than Rs 290 crore.
Special judge M K Nagpal allowed the anti-money laundering agency to interrogate the senior AAP leader in custody for a week. The ED had sought Sisodia’s custody for 10 days.
The court heard the arguments put forth the ED and Sisodia’s lawyers on the AAP leader’s custody.
The lawyer for the Enforcement Directorate alleged Sisodia made false statements to the agency about the ‘scam’ and that it wanted to unearth the modus operandi adopted by the perpetrators and confront him with the other accused.
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ED’s counsel Zoheb Hossain also claimed before the special court that Sisodia destroyed his phones, an important piece of evidence in the investigation.
According to the ED’s remand papers, Sisodia generated ”kickbacks” and proceeds of crime of more than Rs 290 crore.
”Proceeds of crime of at least Rs 292.8 crore (calculated as on date which is likely to increase during the course of investigation) is attributable in respect of the role of Sh. Manish Sisodia…”, the ED said in its remand papers while seeking his custody.
Sisodia, it alleged, ”Conspired with other persons and actively involved in formation of faulty policy against kickbacks…Sisodia has played role in generation, transfer, concealment of the proceeds of crime and projected the same as untainted.” The ED also alleged Sisodia used/changed/destroyed 14 phones/IMEIs and only 2 phones could be recovered during the raids conducted by the CBI in this case.
The AAP politician, it claimed, not only used the SIM subscribed on the name of his PS Devender Sharma but also handsets purchased under various names.
The claims of the ED counsel were contested by a battery of lawyers representing Sisodia.
Senior advocates Dayan Krishnan, Mohit Mathur and Siddharth Aggarwal said the excise policy was accepted by the Lieutenant Governor who must have examined it.
Sisodia’s lawyers while opposing the ED’s plea for his custody, said it is the executive’s job to make policy which goes through several layers of scrutiny.
”How can ED look into policy making in money laundering case?” the AAP leader’s counsel asked the court.
”ED has not found a single penny from my client…the case is entirely based on hearsay,” the lawyers said.
The ED questioned Sisodia fielding three lawyers for his defence, but the court allowed all of them to argue. Normally only one lawyer defends an accused in a case.
There was heavy security within and outside the Rouse Avenue Courts where Sisodia was produced before special judge M K Nagpal amid protests by his Aam Aadmi Party and the rival BJP.
The supporters of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) staged a protest outside the court premises and raised slogans in Sisodia’s favour, while those of the BJP demonstrated demanding Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s resignation over the case.
The ED counsel said the movement of tainted money through hawala channels was also being probed, claiming Sisodia was part of the ”money laundering nexus”.
The agency, in its 57-page remand paper moved by Special Public Prosecutor N K Matta and advocate Mohd Faizan Khan alleged Sisodia got the policy formulated and implemented in such a way so as to allow illegal gains to certain persons and entities against kickbacks. ”He took various decisions as a part of GoM (group of ministers) and as the excise minister which ultimately resulted into huge loss to the exchequer and illegal gains to specific persons/entities against kickbacks,” the ED said.
The ED told the court that Sisodia’s statements were recorded on March 7 and 9 in which he did not reveal the truth and gave evasive replies. ”….hence he was not co-operating with the investigation for taking it to logical end,” the ED said.
It claimed in the new GoM report (on which the excise policy was formed), the wholesale procurement of liquor from manufacturer, storage and supply to retail shops were given to private players whereas the expert committee had recommended keeping the wholesale operations with a government entity, which resulted in ”shifting of profit” from the government to private entities. ”Much graver issue is that the government lost the control over the supply chain of liquor in Delhi which is a sensitive commodity being fast moving and highly taxed,” the ED said in its remand document.
”Sisodia/GoM gave the wholesale business to private players and fixed the profit margin to 12 per cent without any valid reasons with an intent to benefit the South Group to enable them recoup the bribes,” it said.
The ”south group”, according to the agency, comprises Sarath Reddy (promoter of Aurobindo Pharma), Magunta Srinivasulu Reddy (YSR Congress MP from Ongole Lok Sabha seat), his son Raghav Magunta, and BRS leader K Kavitha and others. Kavitha is the daughter of Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao.
”Hence, Custodial Interrogation of Manish Sisodia is need of the hour to unearth this multi crore scam….Hence, on the basis of the investigation conducted so far and on the basis of material available it is clearly indicated that Sisodia is actually involved in the process and connected with the proceeds of crime and therefore, Manish Sisodia is guilty of the offence of money laundering,” the ED said, seeking his custody.
It also alleged Sisodia has withheld information which is in his exclusive knowledge and extremely relevant to the investigation.
”The huge digital/physical records have been seized during 189 search operations conducted till date by ED. The same needs to be confronted with the arrestee. Further, he needs to be interrogated with respect to other associates/entities involved in the cartelization and kickbacks, etc. Further, he needs to be interrogated to identify the complete modus operandi of the offence and to unearth the complete Proceeds of Crime involved,” the agency said.
Sisodia’s counsel rejected the allegations. Terming the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) a ”draconian” law, they said he was arrested so that he can be kept in jail. The time has come for courts to come down heavily on such arrests, they said.
The court, meanwhile, adjourned for March 21 the arguments on Sisodia’s bail application in the corruption case being probed by the CBI.