NEW DELHI: The Enforcement Directorate on Thursday arrested AAP leader and former deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia on money laundering charges in connection with alleged irregularities in the Delhi excise policy, official sources said.
The 51-year-old was placed under arrest under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) following his second round of questioning at the Tihar jail, they said.
The arrest of the AAP politician, a former journalist, by the federal probe agency comes a day before his bail plea will come up for hearing on March 10 before a CBI court. However, his judicial custody is till March 20.
The ED alleged that Sisodia was “evasive” in his replies and was “not cooperating in the probe” and hence was arrested.
The agency is expected to obtain a production warrant from a special PMLA court and then produce him before it on Friday seeking his custody for interrogation.
Sisodia is currently lodged in judicial custody after the CBI arrested him 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 first round of Sisodia’s questioning by the ED took place on March 7 by a three-member team that obtained court’s permission to question Sisodia during his judicial custody period.
If the ED gets his custody, he will be taken to the agency’s headquarters in central Delhi for questioning and further recording of his statement and confrontation with other accused, even if he gets bail in the CBI case on Friday.
The agency is understood to have questioned him in jail 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 then excise minister of Delhi. These charges were made by it in its charge sheets filed before the court.
The ED, according to sources, posed a specific query as to how the excise policy draft was allegedly available with liquor traders and purported cartels even before it was officially published by the excise department of the Delhi government.
The agency is also understood to have asked him about the meetings of the GoM attended/chaired by him on the liquor policy issue and his interactions with other ministers on this panel and also Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.
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.
It had also named Sisodia’s boss and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, in the second charge sheet filed in the case early this year, claiming that C Arvind, a DANICS officer who was earlier secretary to Sisodia, recorded his statement under the PMLA, saying he was given the GoM report on the excise policy in the middle of March 2021 when he was called by his boss (Sisodia) to the residence of Kejriwal.
It is alleged that the Delhi government’s excise policy for 2021-22 to grant licences to liquor traders allowed cartelisation and favoured certain dealers, who had allegedly paid bribes for it, a charge strongly refuted by the AAP.
The policy was later scrapped and the Delhi lieutenant governor recommended a CBI probe, following which the ED booked a case against the same accused under the PMLA.