Excise policy case: ED questions Delhi minister Kailash Gahlot for 5 hrs

The minister, who entered the ED office in central Delhi around 11:30 am and left after 4:30 pm, said he answered all the questions from the agency and will continue to cooperate in the probe.

New Delhi: The Enforcement Directorate questioned Delhi minister Kailash Gahlot for about five hours on Saturday and recorded his statement in connection with a money-laundering investigation linked to the AAP government’s now-scrapped excise policy, officials said.

Gahlot (49), an Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MLA from Najafgarh, is the minister for transport, home and law in the Delhi government led by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who has been arrested in the case by the federal agency.

The minister, who entered the ED office in central Delhi around 11:30 am and left after 4:30 pm, said he answered all the questions from the agency and will continue to cooperate in the probe.

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Sources said Gahlot was questioned with regard to the formulation of the excise policy for 2021-22 as he was part of the Group of Ministers (GoM), along with former deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia and former urban development minister Satyendar Jain.

Gahlot said he was called by the ED for questioning in the case as “probably I was part of the GoM… It (questioning) was about all aspects of the policy and I answered to the best of my knowledge and memory.”

He said this was the second summons sent to him as he could not depose for the first time about a month back as the Budget session of the Delhi assembly was on.

The agency has mentioned Gahlot’s name in its charge sheet and in the context of Vijay Nair, the AAP communications in-charge arrested earlier in the case, saying Nair lived in the government bungalow allotted to Gahlot.

Describing the practice of allowing the use of a government residence to someone else by a public servant as a “criminal breach of trust”, the ED had said it had asked the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to take action in the matter.

Gahlot told reporters that he told the agency he had no information that Nair used to live in a bungalow allotted to him.

“I have never lived in my official bungalow at Civil Lines. Vijay Nair was living there or not I have no information,” he said adding that there was no cross-questioning or confrontation with any other person or statement.

“I never shifted to that bungalow and live with my family at my own house in Vasant Kunj that is in front of the school of my children,” he said.

The minister also said that he was not involved in Assembly polls in Goa.

It is alleged that the money from the alleged Delhi excise policy scam was spent by AAP in the Assembly polls in the coastal state.

“I have no idea about Goa and I had never been part of campaigning and had no knowledge who was incharge there or what activities were taking place,” he said.

Gahlot asserted that there was no “scam” and it will become clearer with time.

“There is no scam here… as the time goes by, everyone will be convinced about this,” he told reporters while exiting the ED office.

The ED has alleged that the excise policy was leaked to the “South Group” liquor lobby that included Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) leader K Kavitha.

This group is alleged to have given Rs 100 crore kickbacks to the AAP and its leaders, according to the agency.

Asked about Kejriwal skipping nine summonses of ED in the same case before his arrest, he said, “I would not like to say anything regarding this.”

The ED has also alleged in its charge sheet that Gahlot handled a single SIM number but his IMEI (international mobile equipment identity) was changed thrice.

“I cannot tell you what questions were asked from me today as these are confidential proceedings,” the minister said.

The excise case pertains to alleged corruption and money laundering in formulating and executing the Delhi government’s excise policy for 2021-22 that was later scrapped.

Delhi Lieutenant Governor V K Saxena recommended a CBI probe into the alleged irregularities in the formulation and implementation of the liquor policy. Subsequently, the ED registered a case under the PMLA.

AAP leaders Sisodia and Sanjay Singh were arrested by the ED in the case earlier and they are in judicial custody.

Aam Aadmi Party and its leaders have repeatedly denied the charges of wrongdoing, with Kejriwal alleging that the case was built by the BJP-led Centre to create a “smokescreen” that AAP is a corrupt party.

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