Kejriwal Produced In Court, Probe Agency May Seek 10-Day Custody

Arvind Kejriwal Produced In Court, Probe Agency Says He Is 'Kingpin'

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal (File).

New Delhi:

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal was the “kingpin” and “key conspirator” in the alleged liquor policy scam in the national capital, the Enforcement Directorate told the city’s Rouse Avenue Court Friday afternoon, as it argued for 10-day custody of the Aam Aadmi Party boss.

The agency has claimed Mr Kejriwal was the middleman between the ‘south group’ and other accused, including ex-Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia (arrested last year) and AAP officer Vijay Nair.

Total proceeds of the alleged scam, the agency said, exceeded Rs 600 crore; this includes Rs 100 crore allegedly paid by the ‘south group’ the agency has claimed includes Bharat Rashtra Samithi leader K Kavitha, who was arrested last week.

Mr Kejriwal – the first sitting Chief Minister to be arrested – has denied all charges. His party has repeatedly claimed the ED has yet to recover any allegedly illegally acquired cash. The Chief Minister – who spent the night at the agency’s office – will be represented by senior advocate Abhishek Singhvi.

What Did ED Say?

“He was directly involved in implementation of the policy, and giving favour to the south group. He demanded kickbacks in exchange for favours… this is corroborated by statements,” Additional Solicitor-General SV Raju, argued for the Enforcement Directorate, “He is involved in use of proceeds of crime.”

The ED claimed Rs 45 crore of the kickbacks were used to fund the AAP’s Goa and Punjab elections.

The party’s showing in the former confirmed its status as a national political outfit, and victory over the Congress in the latter allowed it to establish a first state government outside of Delhi.

READ | Liquor Policy Profits Used For Goa, Punjab Polls: Probe Agency

“We have examined the money trail. The money in Goa came through four routes. These allegations are also corroborated by one of AAP’s candidates… this person was paid in cash…”

The probe agency concluded its argument by calling Mr Kejriwal “the brain behind the party” and held the Chief Minister responsible for all affairs of the AAP. Mr Raju also criticised the Chief Minister for having skipped nine summons of the ED; “… he willfully disobeyed summons…” he said.

On the role of Mr Nair, the Additional Solicitor General said, “He was staying in a house given to Kailash Gahlot (Delhi’s Transport Minister) and acted as the middleman between south group and AAP.”

What Did Arvind Kejriwal Say?

Mr Singhvi told the court the Enforcement Directorate had no need to arrest Mr Kejriwal.

“The first thing is necessity for arrest… power to arrest is not equal to need. Just because you have the power to arrest someone does not mean you should…” he argued, adding the central agency’s claim about tracing the money trail further “can’t be a ground for arrest… it can be grounds for questioning”.

“There is a new pattern… you have a witness who does not name Kejriwal in first or second statement. You arrest him, oppose bail vehemently… then he turns approver and, one fine day, he gives a brilliant statement…” Mr Singhvi said.

“You have to show how I am involved,” he said, asking serious questions of the ED’s argument to arrest and seek custody of Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.

Kejriwal Withdraws Supreme Court Plea

Hours earlier, Mr Kejriwal’s legal team withdrew a Supreme Court plea challenging his arrest; this was shortly after the top court rejected an identical plea by the BRS’ K Kavitha. In fact, the same bench that told Ms Kavitha to go to a lower court was scheduled to hear Mr Kejriwal’s plea.

READ | Kejriwal Withdraws Petition From Top Court, Will Go To Lower Court

Given the court’s reaction to Ms Kavitha’s petition, Mr Kejriwal’s legal team said it had withdrawn its plea as it did not expect a positive response. Sources said the team believed the plea would be pointless since Mr Kejriwal has already been arrested, and the court, in the BRS leader’s case, had remarked “… just because you have the means (power and/or money) we can’t entertain you”.

READ | Supreme Court Refuses To Take Up BRS Leader K Kavitha’s Petition

“We are withdrawing petition here (from the Supreme Court) as it is clashing with remand. We will argue remand and come back here…” Mr Singhvi had told the top court.

Kejriwal To Continue As Chief Minister?

Meanwhile, sources within Mr Kejriwal’s legal team have said there is no reason why the AAP boss – whose arrest weeks before a general election has sparked furious nationwide protests – cannot continue as Delhi Chief Minister. Sources said Mr Kejriwal had not been convicted, only accused.

LIVE COVERAGE | Arvind Kejriwal Withdraws Petition, AAP Ministers Detained

The AAP had insisted that come what may Mr Kejriwal will function as the head of government, even if it meant doing so from inside the city’s Tihar Jail. Under the current guidelines, this might be difficult, since Mr Kejriwal will be limited to two meetings per week.

READ | Can Kejriwal Function As Chief Minister From Jail? What Rules Say

There is, however, an option, a former jail officer told NDTV. This would involve house arrest – i.e., confinement to his residence after the Lieutenant Governor, VK Saxena, permits the recognition of that building as a jail.

Arvind Kejriwal Arrested

Arvind Kejriwal was arrested Thursday evening hours after the Delhi High Court refused to grant him protection from arrest. A team of 12 officials rushed to his residence, where they questioned him, seized documents and other materials, and then, at 9 pm, arrested the three-time Chief Minister.

Mr Kejriwal has been arrested in the Delhi liquor policy scam case; the central agency has accused the AAP leader of being a “conspirator”. The ED believes the now-scrapped policy provided an impossibly high profit margin of nearly 185 per cent for retailers and 12 per cent for wholesalers.

Of the latter, six per cent was to be recovered by the AAP as bribes, which amounted to over Rs 600 crore. Nearly a third of this, the ED has alleged, was paid by a ‘south group’ that included BRS leader K Kavitha. These proceeds were then allegedly used by the AAP for election campaign expenses.

NDTV Explains | Why Did The Enforcement Directorate Arrest Arvind Kejriwal

Apart from Mr Kejriwal, two prominent AAP leaders – Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh and Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia – have also been arrested in connection with this case. Mr Singh was arrested on October 5 and Mr Sisodia over a year ago – on February 26. Neither has received any relief from the top court, underlining how likely it is that Mr Kejriwal too will not get any help.

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