The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has registered a money laundering case in connection with alleged irregularities in the Delhi Excise policy in which Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia and others are allegedly involved, sources in the probe agency said.
In a move that could spell more trouble for the AAP leader after the recent CBI action against him, the sources said the case was filed under criminal sections of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) after taking cognizance of a CBI FIR that has named Sisodia and 14 others.
Reacting to the ED action, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) said this had to happen as Sisodia had rejected the BJP’s offer to join the saffron party as claimed by the deputy chief minister.
"Manish ji is ready to go to jail, but not ready to bow down," the AAP national spokesperson and Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh said in a tweet in Hindi.
‘Sisodia may be arrested in 2-3 days’
As the AAP-BJP faceoff over allegations on Sisodia escalated, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal claimed his deputy may be arrested in two to three days, while Union Minister Anurag Thakur called the AAP a party of liars, alleging that the "Kejriwal model" of governance has failed.
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had conducted raids in the 2021-22 excise policy case on August 19 and had covered the residence of Sisodia in Delhi, that of IAS officer and former Delhi Excise Commissioner Arava Gopi Krishna, and 19 other locations across seven states and Union Territories. Sisodia holds multiple portfolios in the Delhi government, including that of excise and education.
The ED will probe if there were alleged irregularities in the formulation and execution of the Delhi Excise Policy unveiled in November last year.
Kejriwal, who is on a tour of the BJP-ruled Gujarat where Assembly polls are due by the year-end, said looking at the enthusiasm of the youth in the state, it appears Sisodia may be arrested in two to three days instead of 10 days as he believed earlier.
The AAP supremo was speaking at a townhall programme in Bhavnagar.
Sisodia, who was also present at the event, claimed that the growing enthusiasm among the people of Gujarat in supporting the AAP was the reason behind the CBI action against him.
Addressing events in Hamirpur and Una districts to celebrate the upcoming 75th anniversary of the formation of Himachal Pradesh, Minister Thakur said Sisodia has failed to respond on the "liquor scam".
BJP did not make any offer to Sisodia: Thakur
"The Aam Aadmi Party is a party of liars and whatever Manish Sisodia has said about the BJP is completely false. The BJP did not give him any offer," he said, responding to queries by reporters in Hamirpur on allegations by Delhi's deputy chief minister.
Sisodia had linked the recent raid at his home in connection with the alleged excise scam to his "refusal” to accept a BJP “offer” that he would be made the Delhi chief minister if he quits Kejriwal’s party.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) alleged that the AAP government in Delhi ignored infractions in the implementation of the excise policy and recommendations of an expert committee set up to reform liquor trade in the national capital.
It said the AAP leaders had been patting each other on the back and digressing from the questions raised on the alleged malpractices.
According to the Delhi excise policy, producers, retailers and distributors of liquor cannot be the same. Also, there cannot be common directors or shareholders in different companies bidding for licenses, BJP MP Sudhanshu Trivedi told a news conference in Delhi.
The ED, during its probe, will analyse if individuals and companies who were involved in the policy-making of this scheme and related entities, generated any "proceeds of crime under the definition of PMLA" and if there was any possible creation of illegal or benami assets, agency sources said.
The agency has powers to attach such assets and question, arrest and prosecute those who indulge in the offence of money laundering.
The Delhi excise policy scheme came under the scanner after Delhi Lt Governor V K Saxena last month recommended a CBI probe into alleged irregularities in the implementation of Delhi's Excise Policy 2021-22. He also suspended 11 excise officials in the matter.
The CBI inquiry was recommended on the findings of the Delhi chief secretary's report filed in July, showing prima facie violations of the GNCTD Act 1991, Transaction of Business Rules (ToBR)-1993, Delhi Excise Act-2009 and Delhi Excise Rules-2010, officials said.
According to officials, the chief secretary's report had shown prima facie violations, including "deliberate and gross procedural lapses" to provide post-tender "undue benefits to liquor licensees". It is also alleged that undue financial favours were extended to liquor licensees after the tenders were awarded, causing loss to the exchequer.