New Delhi: The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Tuesday questioned former Delhi deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia inside Tihar jail as part of its money laundering probe into alleged irregularities in the now-scrapped Delhi excise policy, official sources said.
It was for the first time that the senior Aam Aadmi Party(AAP) leader was being quizzed by the ED in the excise policy case. The questioning during which the statement of Sisodia was recorded lasted for about five hours, the sources said.
The questioning is expected to continue over the next few days even as Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal targeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi again over the arrest of Sisodia and another party colleague Satyendra Jain.
Sisodia is lodged in Tihar jail after a CBI court on Monday remanded him to 14-day judicial custody in the same case.
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The ED also made a fresh arrest in this case as it took into custody Hyderabad-based liquor businessman Arun Ramchandra Pillai on Monday evening, officials said.
Pillai, who is alleged to to have represented the so-called ‘South Group’ of liquor traders, is the 11th person to be arrested in the case by the ED. A Delhi court on Tuesday sent Pillai to the ED custody till March 13.
The ED investigators reached the Tihar Jail to question and record the statement of Sisodia under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).
The CBI also questioned Sisodia’s personal assistant Devender Sharma in connection with the excise policy case.
Sisodia is lodged in a prison cell for senior citizens and like any other inmate has been given basic items and is being served food as per the jail manual, an official said.
The AAP leader’s cell is inside Tihar Jail Number-1 and it is meant for a single person who is a senior citizen, he said.
On Monday night, he was given basic items such as blankets, soap and oral hygiene products, and for dinner was served rice, chappati, dal as per the provisions of the jail manual, the official added.
The CBI court on Monday allowed Sisodia to carry the Bhagavad Gita, spectacles and medicines to the jail and directed Tihar authorities to consider his request to be allowed to do Vipassana meditation.
As a political slugfest continued over Sisodia’s arrest, Chief Minister Kejriwal claimed that those doing good work are being arrested while those looting the country are getting away.
Addressing a digital press conference, the AAP chief said he was worried about the state of affairs in the country.
Delhi’s health and education sectors were ignored for 65 years before Manish Sisodia and Satyendar Jain turned things around with their hard work and ensured quality education and healthcare to the poor, he said.
But Prime Minister Narendra Modi has ”imprisoned those (Jain and Sisodia) doing good work for the country, while those looting it are being embraced”, the chief minister said.
Kejriwal said he was not worried about Sisodia and Jain being in jail. ”They are brave people who are ready to sacrifice their lives for the country. But the sorry state of affairs in the country worries me.” He said he will meditate and pray on Holi for the betterment of the country.
Kejriwal also said Prime Minister Modi should not talk about fighting corruption as a BJP MLA in Karnataka was not arrested despite a huge amount of cash being found at his home.
However, Sisodia was arrested although nothing was found during raids at the AAP leader’s residence, he added.
”Mr Prime Minister, there was nothing found in raids at Manish Sisodia’s residence. He was arrested by applying all sections of the law by CBI, ED. A huge amount of cash was found with your party MLA. He was not arrested? ”You should henceforth not talk about fighting corruption. It doesn’t suit you,” the AAP national convener said in a tweet in Hindi.
The Karnataka High Court on Tuesday granted anticipatory bail to Channagiri BJP MLA Madal Virupakshappa, who is the main accused in the Karnataka Soaps and Detergents (KSDL) contract scam.
His son Prashanth Madal, who is the chief accounts officer of the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board, was arrested by the Lokayutka police on March 2 while allegedly receiving a bribe of Rs 40 lakh on behalf of his father at the KSDL office.
The CBI had arrested Sisodia on February 26 in connection with alleged corruption in the formulation and implementation of the now-scrapped Delhi liquor or excise policy for 2021-22.
The ED obtained the court’s permission to question the AAP leader in the jail for three days.
The ED is expected to question him about the alleged change and destruction of cellphones that were in his possession and the policy decisions and the timeline followed by him as the excise minister of Delhi. These charges were made by the agency in its chargesheets filed before the court.
At any point of questioning, the ED may consider invoking section 19 of the PMLA that allows it to arrest people involved or accused in the case, if the investigation officer has ”reasons to believe” that the person is ”guilty” of the offence of money laundering and is being ”evasive” in replies. However, the counsel for Sisodia has told the court during CBI proceedings that this was a fabricated case against his client and there was no wrongdoing on his part.
The ED has informed the court through its charge sheet that its probe found that at least 36 accused, including Sisodia ”destroyed, used or changed” 170 phones to conceal evidence of ”kickbacks” worth thousands of crores of rupees in the alleged scam.