Delhi Excise Scam: ED issues fresh summons after Kavitha skips questioning
ED which had been recording the statement of Kavitha since March 11 was to question her further on the depositions made by various suspects in the case.
The Directorate of Enforcement issued a fresh summons to Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) leader K Kavitha, also the daughter of the Telangana chief minister K Chandrashekhar Rao, to appear on March 20, even though she refused to appear before the federal agency on Thursday, citing that a petition challenging her questioning by the ED is pending before the Supreme Court.
Kavitha who was called for a second round of questioning on Thursday after she appeared on March 11 decided to send a legal team with documents to the ED office on her advocates’ advice.
Though Kavitha’s legal team had moved the SC on Wednesday, the apex court had listed the matter for March 24. However, no interim relief in terms of allowing Kavitha to stay away from facing the ED was passed.
The decision to skip the summon which came around 11.30 am on Thursday, was a deviation from Kavitha’s earlier stance of appearing before the ED and cooperating with the investigations as mentioned in her statement which she has issued seeking postponement of the summons issued to her for appearing on March 9.
Seeking postponement, she had cited her political commitment to appear in a rally seeking the introduction of the passage of the Women’s Reservation Bill in Parliament by the ruling BJP government at the centre. But has promised cooperation.
Also, in the wake of Kavitha skipping the summon on Thursday, a special PMLA court extended the custodial remand of Arun Pillai, a key accused alleged to have close associations with Kavitha in connection with the case. The ED was to confront Kavitha with Pillai among other accused and witnesses in custody. Also, the custody of Delhi’s ex-deputy CM Manish Sisodia ends on Friday, March 17.
ED which had been recording the statement of Kavitha since March 11 was to question her further on the depositions made by various suspects in the case. She is a key member of the South Group of liquor traders which allegedly paid an advance of Rs 100 crore to secure favourable tweaks in the Delhi Excise Policy 2021-22. The policy was approved and implemented by ex-deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia, who was also the Excise Minister.
The tweaks secured by South Group allegedly lead to massive cartelization at multiple vending levels violating suggestions of the expert committee and also led to the generation of windfall benefit to the liquor traders through increased commissions, parts of which was paid back allegedly to AAP through various middlemen. Delhi government exchequer meanwhile had suffered an alleged loss of Rs 2873 crores in the wake of this excise policy.
Kavitha’s involvement in the scam was alleged by various accused including accused Arun R Pillai the Hyderabad-based businessman and the representative of the South group of Liquor Traders, who was a direct beneficiary of the kickbacks from the Delhi Excise Policy 2021-22 scam and was also involved in affecting tweaks in the policy in collusion with the AAP’s points person Vijay Nair, that eventually benefitted politicians, middlemen, and liquor traders.
Pillai was the 32.5 percent owner of a business entity that was a major beneficiary of the Excise Policy scam and Kavitha was a major stakeholder in that entity as per disclosure made by Pillai.
Kavitha’s questioning was of importance in the investigation with Sisodia and Pillai being in ED remand currently amidst new evidence, disclosure, and facts emerging in the case. Also, it was important from the point of view of Butchi Babu, another close aide of Pillai, being questioned by the ED over a marathon session on Wednesday.
Pillai had moved an application seeking to retract from the statements made before ED during 2 sessions in November out of the total of 11 sessions between September 2022 and March 2023, prior to his arrest on March 6 evening. Pillai has alleged that the statements were made under coercion.
ED has opposed his application filed by Pillai under Section 50 of the PMLA 2002 stating the statements are being recorded since September 2022 and it was quite absurd that the accused chose to retract from it after so many months. The ED submitted that given the circumstance and timing of the application for retractions, it's quite evident that the accused is under pressure to retract his statement made earlier. Pillai had moved the application on March 11 when Kavitha was summoned for questioning.