Wednesday 7 December 2022
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PoliticsIndiaManish Sisodia first of 15 accused in CBI FIR lodged post-raids

Manish Sisodia first of 15 accused in CBI FIR lodged post-raids

Deputy Chief Minister of Delhi Manish Sisodia is the first accused in a list of 15 in the First Information Report (FIR) of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in connection with an allegedly corrupt liquor policy meant to benefit the Aam Aadmi Party's (AAP) cronies. The CBI listed the offences in an 11-page document. The offences include corruption, conspiracy and falsification of accounts.

The CBI alleges that liquor companies and middlemen were "actively involved in irregularities in the framing and implementation" of the excise policy. During the 12-hour raid, officials of the agency seized confidential official files relating to the new excise policy from the home of a public servant. The location of the seizure is yet to be revealed. No cash recovery has been made so far. The searches are expected to continue.

Lieutenant Governor Saxena had recommended a CBI probe last month after a report from the Delhi Chief Secretary alleging irregularities in Delhi's new liquor policy. Under the policy launched in November, liquor shop licenses were handed over to private players.

The CBI named three officers in the FIR: former Excise Commissioner A Gopi Krishna, Deputy Commissioner Anand Tiwari and Assistant Commissioner Pankaj Bhatnagar. The agency claims further that "close associates of Sisodia — Amit Arora, Dinesh Arora and Arjun Pandey — collected "commission" from liquor licensees and delivered them to "the accused public servants".

The FIR alleges that a liquor trader paid Rs 1 crore to a company managed by Dinesh Arora. The same trader, Sameer Mahendru of Indospirits, gave between Rs 2 crore and Rs 4 crore to Arjun Pandey, another associate.

The agency, which carried out raids at Sisodia's official residence in central Delhi and 30 other locations in seven states and Union territories today, named 13 people and two companies in its FIR registered on 17 August under IPC sections related to conspiracy and provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act. In addition to Sisodia, the CBI has named as accused then excise commissioner Arava Gopi Krishna, then deputy excise commissioner Anand Kumar Tiwari, assistant excise commissioner Pankaj Bhatnagar and nine businessmen.

CBI officials during raid at Manish Sisodia's house in Delhi.

The CBI conducted search operations today at 31 locations, including in Delhi, Gurugram, Chandigarh, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Lucknow and Bengaluru which, so far, have led to the recovery of incriminating documents/articles and digital records, the agency said.

The agency searched even the car of the deputy chief minister. It spent over 8 h at his residence for the search operation.

The CBI states that Sisodia introduced the new policy on who would be allowed to sell alcohol in Delhi without the permission of the Lieutenant Governor, who is the centre's representative in Delhi. The new policy was introduced in November and withdrawn on 30 July after an investigation was announced.

The FIR is based on a reference from Lieutenant Governor VK Saxena, who had recommended a CBI investigation into the liquor policy.

The CBI launched raids this morning on Sisodia, who is AAP's number two leader after Arvind Kejriwal.

Also Delhi's excise minister, Sisodia has strongly denied any wrongdoing. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, the national convenor of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), has firmly backed his deputy.

AAP says the central agency is targeting Sisodia because the union government was furious over the front-page shout-out to him in the New York Times on Thursday. The party alleges that the BJP is using probe agencies to hound AAP as it is worried about Kejriwal emerging as the main challenger to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the 2024 election.

Several AAP supporters were today detained for protesting against the CBI raid at the house of Delhi's deputy chief minister, said. A senior police officer said the party supporters came to Mathura Road near Sisodia's house and started protesting. "The protesters were removed from the spot and taken to Vasant Kunj police station in buses," he said.

After a probe was started initially by Delhi Police's Economic Offences Wing, Manish Sisodia had announced a rollback of the policy.

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