Monday, April 22, 2024
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ED Investigates AAP Ministers in Liquor Scam

New Delhi: After Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, two more heavyweight AAP ministers could come under the Enforcement Directorate’s scanner in the liquor policy scam. In a dramatic turn of events, the ED told the Rouse Avenue court on Monday that during the interrogation, Kejriwal revealed that the liquor policy scam accused Vijay Nair had reported to his ministers, Atishi and Saurabh Bharadwaj.

Senior AAP leaders Satyendar Jain, Manish Sisodia and Sanjay Singh are behind bars. The liquor policy case, being investigated by both the CBI and the ED, pertains to alleged corruption during the formulation of a liquor policy by the Kejriwal-led Delhi government.

Earlier on Monday, Kejriwal, who was remanded to judicial custody till April 15, was sent to the high-security Tihar Jail.

The Delhi CM apparently told the ED that “Vijay Nair did not report to him but to Atishi Marlena and Saurabh Bharadwaj”. Nair is a former communications in-charge of the AAP and is among the accused in the liquor policy case. His alleged involvement stems from his tenure as the party’s communications in-charge, coinciding with the period in which the purported scam unfolded. Following the disclosure, both the ministers could be questioned soon.

Kejriwal was produced in the court of special judge Kaveri Baweja after his ED custody came to an end. The ED had sought 15-day judicial custody of Kejriwal, saying he was “totally uncooperative”. The ED also said the judicial custody could be granted while reserving the right of the agency to take further custody of Kejriwal during the permissible period, if required, in accordance with the law.

Speaking to reporters before entering the Rouse Avenue court, Kejriwal said: “Whatever the Prime Minister is doing (referring to his arrest) is not good for the country.” Atishi, Bharadwaj and Kejriwal’s wife Sunita were present in the court. Sunita Kejriwal accused the BJP of having only one motive — to put her husband in jail during the Lok Sabha elections.

The BJP, however, criticised the AAP for trying to raise the “bogey of victimhood” in support of Kejriwal, and said that the order of a court to send him to jail was based on “concrete” evidence. BJP spokesperson Sudhanshu Trivedi said the Delhi government’s status in the case was becoming “progressively clearer.”

Kejriwal’s petition challenging his arrest and subsequent remand to ED custody is to come up for hearing before the Delhi High Court on Wednesday. In another matter, the Delhi High Court has asked the ED to submit its note to the special judge on the issue of the Chief Minister passing orders while in custody.

A bench of Acting Chief Justice Manmohan and Justice Manmeet P.S. Arora said the special judge, dealing with the money-laundering case in which Kejriwal has been arrested, was directed to pass an order, if required, in accordance with the law. The High Court disposed of the PIL which sought directions to prevent Kejriwal from issuing orders in his capacity as Chief Minister while in the ED’s custody.

Underscoring that Kejriwal was misleading the agency, the ED told the Rouse Avenue court it was still investigating his role, unearthing the further proceeds of the crime and identifying the other persons involved with the activities related to proceeds of crime.

In its remand application, the ED said during Kejriwal’s custodial interrogation, he gave “evasive replies” and concealed information. It said the Chief Minister’s statements were taken over a period of nine days and he was confronted with the statements of different witnesses, approvers and other co-accused. The plea listed “few of the glaring examples of evasive and misleading replies” given by Kejriwal.

The plea underlined that Nair was not some small-time party volunteer but the head of media and communications.

“The arrestee (Kejriwal) has not answered the questions posed to him by questioning the authenticity of digital evidence shown to him. The arrestee also did not reveal the passwords of his digital devices which inhibits the evidence collection and also shows his non-cooperation,” it said.

The remand application said investigation into the economic crimes was more complex than ordinary crimes as economic offenders are resourceful and influential persons and did the said crimes in a carefully planned and meticulous manner.

Nair was arrested by the CBI and the ED over the case and remains incarcerated. According to ED officials, Nair is believed to be part of a larger conspiracy, with the probe agency’s investigation pointing to his collusion with Kejriwal himself.

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