Tainted GoM policy and Rs 100 crore kickbacks: The liquor scam that led to Kejriwal's arrest

ED alleged that BRS leader K. Kavitha orchestrated a deal with Kejriwal, Sisodia


Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal is the fourth arrest, after Manish Sisodia, Sanjay Singh and Vijay Nair of the Aam Aadmi Party by the Enforcement Directorate in the Delhi excise policy scam. Kejriwal’s arrest on Thursday night after hours of searches by the ED has not come suddenly. The agency has been joining the dots for over a year till it laid the grounds for his arrest on March 16 when the ED sought the custody of BRS leader K. Kavitha and told a Delhi court that the Delhi CM was a co-conspirator in the case.

According to the ED, Kejriwal, along with then deputy CM and excise policy minister Manish Sisodia, received kickbacks to the tune of Rs 100 crore through a string of intermediaries and middlemen in exchange for undue favours given to Kavitha and other members of “south group’’ in the now scrapped liquor policy.

Naming Kavitha as “one of the kingpins, a key conspirator and beneficiary of the Delhi excise policy scam”, the ED alleged that she orchestrated a deal with Kejriwal and Sisodia, which resulted in her having access to the policy formulation and “was offered provisions to ensure favourable position to her.” But where and how was the policy formulated? And where does the role of the Delhi CM come in?

It all began with the creation of a group of ministers (GoM) on February 5, 2021 to look into state excise reforms where excise minister Sisodia, the then health minister Satyendar Jain were members who allegedly tweaked the excise policy overriding the expert committee decisions and bypassing the Lieutenant governor, sources said.

The first set of evidence stumbled out when the ED probed the GoM reports where it learnt that a “collective decision’’ was taken by Kejriwal’s cabinet members to fix 12 per cent profit margin while giving wholesale business to private entities. These findings were corroborated with statements of other co-accused in the money laundering case. One of the statements was given by Sisodia’s secretary to the ED on December 7, 2022 where he explained how he was called by Sisodia to Kejriwal’s residence and handed over the draft GoM report in March 2021.

ED officials said the conspiracy of the GoM to give wholesale business to private entities and fix 12 per cent margin (to get six per cent kickback) became clear from the statements that disclosed that there was neither any discussion in the GoM meetings about giving wholesale to private entities nor fixing twelve per cent profit margin for them.

“Since there was no proper calculation behind five per cent profit margin in the previous policy of 2020-21, the GoM doubled it to 12 per cent without any proper working of that margin,’’ Sisodia is learnt to have told the ED after his arrest.

At the heart of this alleged conspiracy was the role of Vijay Nair, AAP’s communication in-charge and a close associate of Kejriwal who was closely interacting with Sisodia for excise policy-related matters, sources said.

The ED has alleged that Nair along with the ‘’south group’’ (comprising of Sarath Reddy, M.S. Reddy, R. Magunta and Kavitha who were represented by Arun Pillai, Abhishek Boinpally and Buchi Babu) were part of the original conspiracy. “The new excise policy was brought out with an extraordinarily high 12 per cent profit margin for wholesalers and almost 185 per cent profit margin for the retailers. As a scheme, six per cent out of the 12 per cent margin was to be collected back from the wholesalers as kickback to the leaders of the AAP,’’ the ED told the court.

The ED alleged that the “south group paid this kickback to the tune of Rs 100 crore in advance to Vijay Nair who was managing this scheme and conspiracy on behalf of the leaders of AAP.

In lieu of this advance kickback payment, Nair ensured that the South Group secured a stake in wholesale businesses as they had no base in the Delhi liquor business, the ED claimed. “He ensured that they were allowed to hold multiple retail licences over and above what was permissible as per the excise policy and that they were given other undue favours.’’ The ED then recorded statements of other accused who also spoke of a “political understanding” between Kavitha and the AAP leaders.

After Kavitha’s arrest, the ED is learnt to have questioned her on how she got stakes in the partnership of Indo Spirits, through her dummy named Arun Pillai, without substantial investment in this firm but making it the most profitable licencee in the Delhi Excise policy. The ED is learnt to have questioned Kejriwal about some of these findings and evasive responses prompted his arrest.

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