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AAP to be Named Accused in Delhi Liquor Policy Scam: ED

AAP to be Named Accused in Delhi Liquor Policy Scam: ED

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Manas Dasgupta

NEW DELHI, May 14: The Aam Aadmi Party will become the first political party in the country to be made an accused in a case. The Enforcement Directorate informed the Delhi High Court on Tuesday that the AAP would be made an accused in the alleged Delhi liquor policy scam which has seen three of its key leaders including the party chief and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, land behind bars.

The ED’s submission was made while opposing the bail plea of former Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia in the money laundering case. “AAP is going to be made a co-accused in the next prosecution complaint (charge sheet) to be filed in the case,” ED’s counsel contended before Justice Swarana Kanta Sharma, who is hearing arguments on Mr Sisodia’s bail plea.

The probe agency’s lawyer also claimed that the accused persons were making concerted efforts to delay the process of framing of charges in the case. While seeking bail for him, Sisodia’s counsel submitted that the ED and the CBI are still arresting people in the money laundering and corruption case and there was no question of early conclusion of the trial.

The Enforcement Directorate is probing the money laundering angle of the alleged scam and the move comes just days after the Supreme Court granted Mr Kejriwal interim bail for 21 days to campaign in the Lok Sabha elections.

In October last year, the question of making the AAP an accused was raised by the Supreme Court, which had asked why the political party was not being named if it had – as per the ED’s claims – benefited from the alleged kickbacks in the liquor police case.

“As far as the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) is concerned, your whole case is that the benefits went to a political party. That political party is still not made an accused or Impleaded. How do you answer that? The political party is the beneficiary according to you,” a bench of justices Sanjiv Khanna and SV Bhatti had said.

The next day, the court had clarified that its query was “not to implicate any political party” and was “just a legal question.” Officials have been saying that the probe agency was treating the political party as a company and, by that logic, Arvind Kejriwal would be the CEO. The classification would help the ED as the definition of a company was broad under the PMLA.

Reacting to the ED’s move, the BJP has said the alleged kickbacks were used by the AAP in its campaign for the 2022 Goa elections. “The Aam Aadmi Party has been the biggest scam in the history of Indian politics and the alleged kickbacks were used for the elections in Goa. Almost all of their key leaders are accused (in the case)…

“It is about time the AAP accepts its culpability. Manish Sisodia has not been given bail for 15 months. There is nothing surprising in the ED’s decision to make the entire party an accused,” BJP Spokesperson Tuhin Sinha said. On allegations of the central agencies being misused by the Centre, Mr Sinha said the AAP has good lawyers and can “fight it out legally.”

Under the excise policy, introduced in November 2021, the Delhi government withdrew from retail sale of liquor and allowed private licensees to run stores. In July 2022, Delhi Chief Secretary Naresh Kumar flagged gross violations in the policy and alleged “undue benefits” to liquor licensees. The policy was scrapped in September that year.

The CBI has alleged that liquor companies were involved in framing the excise policy, which would have earned them a 12% profit. It said a liquor lobby dubbed the “South Group” had paid kickbacks to the tune of ₹ 100 crore to the AAP, part of which were routed to public servants. The Enforcement Directorate has alleged laundering of the kickbacks.

Meanwhile, Delhi’s Rouse Avenue Court deferred hearing arguments on consideration of the sixth supplementary charge sheet filed by the ED in connection with the Delhi liquor excise policy, to May 20.

The court also extended the judicial custody of BRS leader K. Kavitha, a key figure in the said “South Group,” till May 20.

Manish Sisodia, once Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal’s deputy in the Delhi government, has been in jail since February last year. His bail applications were turned down by several courts.

The ED has accused several AAP leaders, including Mr Kejriwal of accepting kickbacks in return for formulating a liquor policy favourable to the interests of ‘South Group’, an alleged group of liquor businessmen and politicians.

Mr Kejriwal was arrested by the ED on March 21 in connection with the case and the Supreme Court last week released him on bail till June 1 in view of the Lok Sabha elections. The AAP has denied any wrongdoing, claiming the agency couldn’t establish the trail of money in the case.



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