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Delhi Excise policy case: CBI defers questioning on Dy CM Sisodia’s request for more time

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The CBI on Sunday deferred the questioning of Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia in connection with the Delhi Excise policy scam case after he sought time from the probe agency citing the city government’s ongoing budget exercise.

The agency had asked Sisodia to appear for questioning on Sunday. The central probe agency accepted Sisodia’s application to defer the questioning and will give a new date soon, officials said.

Sisodia on Sunday said the BJP was using the probe agency to take “revenge” from him and expressed apprehension that he would be arrested. The Aam Admi Party leader, who is also the Finance minister in the Delhi government, said he would be available for questioning after a week.

During its probe into the money trail and links between liquor traders, AAP leaders, middlemen and politicians, the CBI has gathered elaborate materials on which it needs the clarifications from Sisodia who is the prime accused in the FIR, officials said. The agency had filed its first charge sheet against seven persons on November 25 last year in which Sisodia was not named as accused.

The CBI has kept open the probe against Sisodia and other FIR named accused.

Three months later, the agency said it has stumbled upon details of meetings, message exchanges and transactions on which explanation could be sought from the deputy chief minister, who hold the charge of the Excise department, they said. The CBI is also armed with the concessional statement of Dinesh Arora, alleged to be Sisodia’s “close associate” who is understood to have spilled the beans about how the excise policy was allegedly swung in favour of some liquor traders and “South Lobby” of Hyderabad-based politicians and alcohol traders who are under scanner of the agencies. The deputy chief minister said he has asked for time for February last week as he was “finalising the budget of Delhi and it is a crucial time”. “I have told them that I will come after the last week of February.

“It is my duty as finance minister to present the budget on time and I have been working 24 hours for it. I have requested the CBI to allow me to come after the last week of February and answer all their questions,” he told reporters.

Referring to the apex court ordering issuance of a notice for convening the first meeting of the civic body to fix the date of elections for the MCD mayor, the AAP leader told PTI, “The BJP lost elections and then they lost again on Friday in the Supreme Court. So this is their revenge”. “They are using the CBI to take revenge and I am sure they will do that by getting me arrested,” he charged.

“I have always cooperated with the CBI and ready to do it again but I am just seeking time as I am finalising the budget and if I go now, the budget will suffer and the people of Delhi will suffer,” he said.

Maintaining that he was not scared of getting arrested or going to jail, Sisodia said he “just wants time to finish the budget and I have all answers to the questions of the CBI”. While the Delhi BJP said it was surprising that Sisodia was finding excuses to evade CBI inquiry, the Congress demanded his resignation over graft allegations.

Delhi BJP Working President Virendra Sachdeva said it is really surprising that Sisodia has for long been saying that he is prepared for inquiry and that there was no scam in the liquor policy but the moment CBI called him, he has started finding excuses to evade inquiry for as long as possible.

“Yesterday Sisodia tweeted there the CBI has nothing against him and he was being harassed for doing good work on education. But this morning, instead of going to CBI, Sisodia called the media to tell that he has written to the CBI saying he was preparing the Delhi budget so need time to appear before them,” he said.

Delhi Congress Chief Anil Kumar demanded the resignation of Sisodia and said he would tamper evidence since he has been allowed a week’s time.

He said the CBI has reportedly collected damning evidence against the AAP minister in the multi crore scam after questioning his personal secretary and he should not have been allowed to evade questioning today.

Sisodia was earlier questioned on October 17 last year and his home and bank lockers were also searched in connection with the case. It is alleged the Delhi government’s policy to grant licences to liquor traders favoured certain dealers who had allegedly paid bribes for it, a charge strongly refuted by the AAP.

“It was further alleged that irregularities were committed including modifications in Excise Policy, extending undue favours to the licensees, waiver/reduction in licence fee, extension of L-1 license without approval etc. “It was also alleged that illegal gains on the count of these acts were diverted to concerned public servants by private parties by making false entries in their books of accounts,” a CBI spokesperson had said.

Recently, the CBI arrested Butchibabu Gorantla, a former Chartered Accountant of K Kavitha, a BRS MLC in Telangana and a daughter of Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao. It is alleged that Babu had met several accused named in the FIR in Delhi, Hyderabad, and Mumbai and was one of the prime negotiators from the South Lobby, which wanted to swing the now scrapped excise policy for 2021-22 in its favour. The CBI had also questioned Kavitha in connection with the case in December last year. During its probe, the CBI had found evidence that Babu acted on behalf of the South Lobby comprising the Telangana MLC, YSRCP MP Magunta Srinivasulu Reddy, and Aurobindo Pharma’s P Sarat Chandra Reddy.

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