Former Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia “conspired” with others to frame a faulty excise policy in order to generate kickbacks and proceeds of crime to the tune of more than Rs 290 crore, the ED alleged before a court here on Friday.
The federal investigative agency had arrested Sisodia, 51, at the Tihar Jail on Thursday. A special court sent Sisodia to Enforcement Directorate’s custody till March 17 after the agency produced him before a special court on Friday.
“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 said, “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.”
Giving a small tabular column on the note, the ED claimed while Rs 100 crore was received as “kickbacks” from the ‘South Group’ of liquor cartel, an accused company in the case, Indospirits, made a profit of Rs 192.8 crore which was “proceeds of crime” generated through the irregularities made in the excise policy 2021-22.
The policy was scrapped after the Delhi Lieutenant Governor raised a red flag and asked the CBI to investigate. The ED took cognisance of the CBI FIR to slap a case of money laundering against Sisodia and others.
The agency also claimed Sisodia gave “false” statements to it during his questioning in the Tihar jail on March 7 and March 9.
He was in judicial custody after the CBI arrested him late last month in the related corruption case.
“On being asked about his association with Dinesh Arora (another accused), who handled the transfer of kickbacks from the South Group to Vijay Nair (AAP functionary arrested in the case), he (Sisodia) gave an answer contrary to what has been revealed by independent persons/stakeholders,” the ED alleged.
It said Sisodia got the policy formulated and implemented in “such a way” so as to allow illegal gains to certain persons/ entities against kickbacks.
“He took various decisions as a part of GoM 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.
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.
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Sisodia went against the suggestions of the expert committee and public comments, it said.
“Moreover, public opinion/comments were not sought on the report of the GoM that was placed on March 22, 2021 even though the GoM revamped the excise policy framework completely and had considerable time gap (3 months) between when the policy was finalised and uploaded on July 5, 2021 which exposes the mala fide intention and conspiracy of Sisodia and reflects that he was seeking the public comments and suggestions as merely an eyewash,” the ED claimed.
The ED said the objectives of the excise policy were made to appear grand but were diluted in the L1 terms and conditions.
“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.
The ED said while it was a fact that the total sales of liquor “actually increased in the new policy period (17.11.2021-31.08.2022) as compared to the similar period in the last 3 years, it led to a reduction in the licence fee to be deposited by license holders as they got relief of Rs 719 crore from the excise department on the ground that they were not able to open shops in non-conforming areas.
It made a mention of the Goa election campaign undertaken by the AAP, saying many payments for advertisements were made in cash by the party.
The ED also alleged Sisodia used/changed/destroyed 14 phones/IMEIs and only 2 phones could be recovered during raids conducted by the CBI in this case.
The AAP politician, it said, not only used SIM subscribed on the name of his PS Devender Sharma but also used handsets purchased under various names.
“The sole purpose of using SIM card and handset registered on the name of another person was to deny that the data connected with the SIM and stored in the phone belongs to him (Sisodia). This is a typical case of storing and using equipment owned in benami names,” the ED said. PTI NES
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