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‘Gave answers to the best of my knowledge,’ says AAP’s Kailash Gahlot | Latest News Delhi

Delhi transport minister and senior Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Kailash Gahlot was questioned by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) for nearly five hours on Saturday for his alleged involvement in the framing and implementation of the now-scrapped Delhi excise policy 2021-22, officials aware of the matter said, adding that the minister was asked to record his statement under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

New Delhi: Delhi minister and AAP leader Kailash Gahlot had excused himself from attending the first summons last month because of the Delhi assembly session. (PTI)

This was the second time that the federal agency summoned Gahlot, the MLA from Najafgarh, in the money laundering probe related to the policy. Gahlot had excused himself from attending the first summons last month because of the Delhi assembly session.

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Gahlot, who spoke to reporters outside the ED headquarters in New Delhi, said the agency asked him questions about the excise policy and was not confronted with arrested chief minister Arvind Kejriwal. “I was questioned alone. They did not question me in front of any other person. I gave them the answers to the best of my knowledge. I was a part of the ‘group of ministers’ (those who drafted the now-scrapped liquor policy) but I cannot reveal what the ED’s questions were,” said Gahlot.

So far, the federal agency that probes financial crimes has arrested four high-profile political leaders — three of whom are from the AAP — including Arvind Kejriwal, former Delhi deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia and AAP Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh. ED also arrested K Kavitha, senior Bharat Rashtra Samithi leader and the daughter of former Telangana chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao.

To be sure, the AAP has consistently denied ED’s allegations and has accused the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Centre of using federal agencies like ED and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to target leaders of the Opposition. The party has said that the agencies have no evidence to establish cases against the accused except statements of some arrested people who were allegedly threatened into naming the AAP leaders.

In the aftermath of Gahlot being summoned on Saturday, senior AAP leaders accused ED of being biased against the AAP and the Opposition and termed the investigation a “witch-hunt”.

Though ED officials associated with the case did not share details about Gahlot’s questioning, the minister has been named by the CBI as being a part of the group of ministers that drafted the policy. The agencies have also alleged that one of the arrested accused, Vijay Nair, who was the AAP’s communication in-charge at the time, had held meetings and met people connected to the case at Gahlot’s official house in Civil Lines. However, Gahlot has said that though the house in Civil Lines is allotted to him, he continues to live in his private residence with his family in south Delhi.

The agencies have maintained that Nair was “not an ordinary party worker but a close associate of Kejriwal”. Nair was allegedly staying at Gahlot’s Civil Lines residence since 2020, according to ED.

“I have always said that though the official house in Civil Lines is allotted to my name, I do not stay there. We live at our private residence in Vasant Vihar because my children’s school is closer to that place. I had told CBI that I was not aware if Nair or anyone else was staying at the Civil Lines house. I told ED the same thing today,” Gahlot told the media.

Responding to questions regarding ED allegations that the proceeds of crime from alleged money laundering were used in the Goa election campaigning, Gahlot said: “I was not part of the Goa election campaign. It won’t be right for me to comment on it.”

Both ED and the CBI are probing the liquor policy case. While CBI is probing irregularities in the policy, ED is probing it from the money laundering angle.

In different submissions before the court, ED has claimed that a conspiracy was hatched by political leaders including Arvind Kejriwal, Manish Sisodia and BRS leader K Kavitha among others in the excise policy. A “South Group” comprising businessman Sarath Reddy, Magunta Srinivasulu Reddy and K Kavitha got nine zones out of 32 in Delhi under excise policy 2021-22. The policy was brought out with an extraordinarily high 12% profit margin for wholesalers and almost 185% profit margin for retailers. According to the conspiracy, 6% out of the 12% margin was to be collected back from the wholesalers as kickbacks to the leaders of AAP, ED has alleged, adding that the South Group paid kickbacks of 100 crore in advance to Nair, who was managing this scheme and conspiracy on behalf of the leaders of the AAP.

Meanwhile, Delhi AAP convener and minister Gopal Rai slammed ED over the summons to the transport minister. “It has become a habit of the ED to send summonses to AAP leaders on a daily basis. The nation wants to know when the prime accused in this case, Sarath Chandra Reddy and the national president of BJP JP Nadda, would be served summons,” Rai said.

Delhi finance minister and Kalkaji MLA Atishi resonated with Rai’s statement and said the “so-called investigations were made to crush the AAP”.

“The purpose of all these summons, the arrest of CM Arvind Kejriwal, (former deputy CM) Manish Sisodia, Sanjay Singh is not to conduct any probe. Had a probe been the purpose today the BJP would have been facing investigation because the liquor traders are directly linked with BJP. The so-called investigation is designed to crush AAP… topple the elected government of Delhi. Today they have summoned Kailash Gahlot, tomorrow they may summon me or Saurabh Bharadwaj. It is all the conspiracy of the BJP,” said Atishi.

Delhi BJP chief Virendra Sachdeva hit back and said that Gahlot’s role in the excise “scam” has now come out. “Gahlot’s role has come out in liquor scam… Gahlot has been a comparatively silent minister and exposure of his role has shocked Delhiites beyond expression. Now people believe that the entire government and party MLAs are inundated with corruption. Earlier this week, we also saw enforcement investigating an MLA Gulab Singh Matiala and some leaders of AAP from Goa too,” said Sachdeva.

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