CBI begins questioning accused in Delhi excise policy case, shares FIR with ED

The agency on Friday carried out searches at 31 places, which included premises related to AAP leader Manish Sisodia as well as some bureaucrats and businessmen

CBI headquarters in Delhi
CBI headquarters in Delhi
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PTI

The CBI on Saturday recorded the statements of three of the accused as it began the questioning in the alleged corruption case related to the implementation of the Delhi Excise Policy, officials said.

The agency is also examining the documents seized on Friday during raids at 31 places, including the residence of Delhi' Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia who is among the 15 named in the FIR, they said.

The three accused were called to the CBI headquarters where their statements were recorded and they were confronted with some documents of financial transactions recovered during the searches, the officials said, without elaborating.

The accused were questioned for nearly 12 hours after which they were allowed to go home, they said. Some of them will be called again for questioning, they said.

The officials said once the process of examining the documents and electronic gadgets as well as the bank transactions is completed, summonses will be issued to other accused.

The CBI FIR, which was registered before a special court on Wednesday, has also been shared with the Enforcement Directorate, a financial probe agency, which will look into the allegations of money laundering.

The agency on Friday carried out searches at 31 places, which included premises related to Sisodia as well as some bureaucrats and businessmen.

The AAP condemned the raids with Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal claiming the agency has been "asked from above" to harass its leaders.

The BJP asked the Delhi government to come out clean on its excise policy.

Under the CBI probe are at least two payments in crores allegedly made to "close associates" of Sisodia by Sameer Mahendru, the owner of Indospirits, who was one of the liquor traders actively involved in alleged irregularities in the framing and implementation of the excise policy.

The FIR alleged Sisodia's "close associates" - Amit Arora, director of Buddy Retail Pvt. Limited in Gurugram, Dinesh Arora and Arjun Pandey - were "actively involved in managing and diverting the undue pecuniary advantage collected from liquor licensees" to the accused public servants.

The search operations on Friday continued for nearly 15 hours with the CBI team leaving Sisodia's residence at around 11 pm.

The searches at the AAP leader's home, the residence of IAS officer and former excise commissioner Arava Gopi Krishna, and 29 other places took place after the CBI registered an FIR for alleged corruption and bribery in the formulation and execution of the Delhi Excise Policy brought out last November, officials said.

The policy was withdrawn in July this year after Delhi Lt Governor VK Saxena called for a CBI probe. The FIR on August 17 was based on a reference from the Lieutenant Governor's office routed through the Union Home Ministry.

The CBI has invoked the IPC section related to criminal conspiracy and provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act. Public servants including Krishna, former Deputy Excise Commissioner Anand Tiwari and assistant excise commissioner Pankaj Bhatnagar, nine businessmen and two companies are among those named in the FIR.

The CBI, which registered an FIR in a special court in Delhi on Wednesday, began its raids from 8 am in seven states.

The search operation expanded to 31 locations in Delhi, Gurugram, Chandigarh, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Lucknow, and Bengaluru which led to the recovery of "incriminating" documents, articles, digital records, etc, the officials had said.

The damaging allegations in the FIR, based on "source information", state that Sisodia and the accused public servants took decisions pertaining to the excise policy 2021-22 without the approval of competent authority with "an intention to extend undue favours to the licencees post tender".

"It was alleged that irregularities were committed including in modifications in Excise Policy, extending undue favours to the licencees, waiver/reduction in licence fee, extension of L-1 licence without approval, etc.," the CBI's spokesperson said in a statement on Friday.

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