ED arrests Cong leader Shivakumar, he accuses BJP of vendetta

Shivakumar, the Congress party’s go-to man, had hosted 44 Guj Cong MLAs at resort to keep the flock together in 2017; during recent political crisis in K’taka too, he tried to win back dissidents

Former Karnataka minister D.K. Shivakumar
Former Karnataka minister D.K. Shivakumar

NH Web Desk & PTI

The ED Tuesday arrested Congress's troubleshooter from Karnataka D K Shivakumar here in connection with a money laundering case following repeated questioning over the past few days, officials said.

The former Karnataka cabinet minister and sitting MLA from Kanakapura seat appeared before the central probe agency for questioning for the fourth time on Tuesday at its headquarters at Khan Market in New Delhi.

After a long session of grilling, Shivakumar was placed under arrest as per provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), they said. The agency wants the Congress leader to be put through custodial interrogation and hence he was arrested, they said.

Shivakumar will be produced before a court in New Delhi on Wednesday by the Enforcement Directorate for seeking his custody, they said.

The central agency had in September last year registered the money laundering case against Shivakumar, Haumanthaiah, an employee at Karnataka Bhavan in New Delhi, and others.

The Karnataka Congressman had denied any wrongdoing and had said that for playing an "instrumental role" in ensuring safe stay of Gujarat Congress MLAs in a Karnataka resort during the Rajya Sabha polls in 2017, amid allegations that the BJP was trying to poach them, I-T searches were conducted and ED subsequently took action against him.

After his arrest, Shivakumar taunted at Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) by congratulating it for finally getting him arrested.

He tweeted: “I congratulate my BJP friends for finally being successful in their mission of arresting me. The IT & ED cases against me are politically motivated and I am a victim of BJP's politics of vengeance and vendetta.”

When Sonia Gandhi's political secretary Ahmed Patel fought the Rajya Sabha election from Gujarat in 2017, Shivakumar had hosted 44 Gujarat Congress MLAs at the resort to keep the flock together.

During the recent political crisis in Karnataka too, Shivakumar tried to wean away the dissidents and woo them back to the Congress fold. But the Congress-JDS government fell and B.S. Yediyurappa went on become the chief minister, heading a BJP government.

The Congress party and the rest of the Opposition has been accusing the Narendra Modi government of indulging in vendetta politics and slapping unsubstantiated cases on political opponents to muzzle their voice.

Former Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, too, is being probed by ED and CBI for alleged irregularities in Aircel-Maxis and INX media cases during his tenure as the Finance Minister in UPA-2 government. He is under CBI custody since August 21.

While making his first appearance before the agency here on August 30, Shivakumar had said that he would cooperate with the ED in the probe.

"It is my duty (to appear).... I have to respect the law. We are lawmakers and law abiding citizens. They (ED) have summoned me.... I don't know why they have called me under Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA)." "But, let me see, hear them. I am ready to face them (ED)," he had told reporters outside the ED office.

Congress party leaders in Karnataka on Tuesday cried foul saying their colleague was a victim of vendetta politics, a charge rejected by the BJP leaders.

Meanwhile, his supporters gathered outside ED office in the national capital and staged a protest against his arrest.

State Congress chief Dinesh Gundu Rao accused the BJP of using investigating agencies to "vindictively targeting" opposition leaders and said the party stood with Shivakumar while former MP V S Ugrappa called it witch hunting and took exception to the leader being summoned on Ganesha Chaturthi day for questioning.

Shivakumar had to appear before the agency after the Karnataka High Court last week dismissed his petition challenging the summons issued to him by the ED.

The ED had filed a PMLA case against him and others based on a charge sheet (prosecution complaint) filed by the Income Tax Department against them last year before a special court in Bengaluru on charges of alleged tax evasion and hawala transactions worth crores.

The I-T department has accused Shivakumar and his associate S K Sharma of transporting huge amount of unaccounted cash on a regular basis through 'hawala' channels with the help of three other accused.

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