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Kejriwal sent to Tihar Jail till April 15, ED Says He was “Totally Uncooperative”

Kejriwal sent to Tihar Jail till April 15, ED Says He was “Totally Uncooperative”

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Manas Dasgupta

NEW DELHI, Apr 1: The Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal was on Monday evening lodged in the Tihar jail where he will spend at least the next 15 days after he was sent to judicial custody till April 15 by a local court in connection with the alleged liquor policy scam being probed by the Enforcement Directorate.

Mr Kejriwal was produced before the Special Judge Kaveri Baweja in the Rouse Avenue Court in a jam-packed courtroom after his ED custodial remand ended on Monday The probe agency did not seek its own custody of the AAP leader but had sought 15-day judicial custody of Mr Kejriwal, saying he was “totally uncooperative” and was giving evasive answers. He did not reveal the passwords of his digital devices, the ED told the court after which was sent to jail till April 15.

The court has also allowed him to meet his wife Sunita Kejriwal and ministers Atishi and Saurabh Bhardwaj before he was shifted to the Tihar Jail. Mr Kejriwal was arrested on March 21 in the alleged liquor policy scam after he skipped nine central agency summons, and has been running his government from the ED lock-up since then.

Speaking to reporters before entering court, Mr Kejriwal said, “Whatever the Prime Minister is doing [referring to his arrest] is not good for the country.” AAP Ministers Atishi, Saurabh Bhardwaj and Mr Kejriwal’s wife Sunita Kejriwal were present in court.

In its remand application, the probe agency has accused the AAP leader of “being involved in the entire conspiracy of Delhi liquor scam, in drafting and implementation of the policy, for favouring and benefiting the quid pro receiving kickbacks and eventually using part of proceeds of crime generated out of the scheduled offence in the election campaign for Goa Assembly elections.”

Telling the court that it might need Mr Kejriwal later for further questioning, the ED said Mr Kejriwal 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 Enforcement Directorate also gave a few examples. It said Mr Kejriwal claimed that Vijay Nair did not report to him but to Atishi Marlena and Saurav Bharadwaj. The agency claimed co-accused Vijay Nair said in his statements that he stayed in the chief minister’s bungalow and worked from his office.

“It was also put to the arrestee to explain that why would someone, who reported to other leaders of AAP, work from his camp office which anyways is meant for the work of the CM of Delhi and not for the party. Kejriwal evaded replying to this by claiming unawareness to the persons who work at the CM camp office,” it said.

The ED claimed that Mr Kejriwal didn’t answer questions on the authenticity of digital evidence shown to him. Arvind Kejriwal didn’t reveal the passwords of his mobile devices, said the agency. “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. Vijay Nair is a worker in the AAP and also a co-accused in the liquor policy case.

“It was put to the arrestee to explain the authority with which Nair attended these meetings, the arrestee evaded the question by claiming unawareness of these persons and it is clear that a senior functionary like Nair who closely worked with the arrestee wouldn’t be able to assert himself without the sanction and approval of the head of the party. This is also because the ultimate benefit of these conspiracies or meetings was reaped by the AAP in the Goa election campaign,” the remand application added.

The remand application said Mr Kejriwal was shown proof of hawala transfers of around ₹45 crore. It claimed it had corroborated the payments with CDR locations, call records and WhatsApp chats. “Even after showing all the above evidence, the arrestee claimed unawareness even though the beneficiary of these funds is the AAP which is headed by him,” it said.

“The arrestee (Kejriwal) has even given false and contrary evidence vis-a-vis other members of the AAP. When he was confronted with the statements given by his own party leaders he called them confused.” It claimed Mr Kejriwal told the agency that N D Gupta, also a Rajya Sabha member of the AAP, is an “active member of the party and is a member of the PAC and has knowledge of the party functioning but when confronted with the statement of Sh N D Gupta wherein he (Gupta) reveals that the national convenor takes such decisions, Sh Arvind Kejriwal calls the National Treasurer confused.”

The agency claimed that Nair, who was arrested by the agency, “arranged a video call through facetime (a video calling facility on iPhone) on his phone for Sameer (Mahandru) and Sh Arvind Kejriwal, where Sh Arvind said to Sh Sameer that, Vijay is his boy and that Sh Sameer should trust him and carry on with him.” Sameer Mahandru, a liquor businessman was also arrested by the Enforcement Directorate.

The remand application said the extension should be granted on the grounds that he was “highly influential” and can tamper with evidence. “That the department (ED) is still further investigating the role of the arrestee in the instant matter and is unearthing the further proceeds of crime and identifying the other persons who are involved or connected with the process or activities related to proceeds of crime,” it said.

Mr Kejriwal’s lawyer has demanded some medicines and a special diet for him inside the jail in view of his illness. A request has also been made to provide a copy of RamayanShrimad Bhagvad Gita, and How Prime Ministers Decide (by Neerja Chowdhury) to the jailed Chief Minister.

The Chief Minister has also moved the Delhi High Court against his arrest, arguing that his fundamental rights were violated by the probe agency. The court had issued a notice to the ED, seeking a reply by April 2. The hearing will resume on April 3. Mr Kejriwal is the third AAP leader after his former deputy Manish Sisodia and Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh to be arrested in the liquor policy case. He has dubbed his arrest a “political conspiracy.”

He had also addressed the courtroom during his last hearing and asserted no court had proven him guilty. “The CBI has filed 31,000 pages (of charge-sheets) and ED filed 25,000 pages. Even if you read them together… the question remains… why have I been arrested?” he had said.

The excise policy was introduced to bring an overhaul to the liquor business in Delhi but was scrapped after Lieutenant Governor VK Saxena ordered a probe into the alleged irregularities in the policy. The ED believes the policy provided a high profit margin and bribe money was allegedly used to fund the AAP’s election campaigns.

The BJP lashed out at Mr Kejriwal after the ED said the Delhi Chief Minister gave “false and contradictory evidence (regarding) other members of (his) AAP” in interrogation. The BJP also pointed to Mr Kejriwal the “kingpin” reportedly calling AAP colleagues “confused” when asked about their statements.

The sharp attacks came shortly after Delhi’s Rouse Avenue Court was told Mr Kejriwal had given “evasive replies” and concealed information relevant to the investigation into the alleged scam. The BJP pounced on these and other arguments made by the ED in court and again demanded his resignation on “moral and Constitutional grounds” and mocked the anti-corruption activist-turned-politician for having “changed his guru (teacher).”

“Anna Hazare used to be his (Mr Kejriwal’s) guru. The guru said he would not join politics, but the disciple joined and became Chief Minister. Now he has changed his guru… now the guru is Lalu Prasad Yadav,” the BJP ranted, referring to former Bihar Chief Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav.

Mr Yadav was forced to resign as Chief Minister after being convicted in corruption scams. “Lalu Yadav at least resigned when he was going to jail (the Rashtriya Janata Dal patriarch handed the reigns to his wife, Rabri Devi but he (Mr Kejriwal) hasn’t resigned yet,” the party said.

Mr Kejriwal, his colleagues behind bars, and other senior AAP leaders have denied all charges; they have pointed to an investigation that has spanned two years and resulted in no cash recovery, and accused the BJP of a “political conspiracy” to discredit the opposition party before an election.

The opposition has also accused the BJP of using investigative agencies that report to the centre – like the ED and Central Bureau of Investigation – to target rival political leaders before the election. The BJP has firmly dismissed such claims.

Mr Kejriwal will spend the next two weeks in Jail No 2 of Delhi’s Tihar Jail, with his former deputy, Manish Sisodia; his former Health Minister, Satyendar Jain; and Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh. Mr Sisodia and Mr Singh were arrested in the alleged liquor scam case, as was another opposition politician – the BRS’ K Kavitha. Mr Jain was arrested on money laundering charges.



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