CBI questions Manish Sisodia’s close aide in the Delhi excise policy case

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is questioning former Delhi deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia’s close aide Devender Sharma in the excise policy case, said officials on Tuesday.

The questioning is ongoing at CBI headquarters in the national capital. Meanwhile, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) will question Sisodia in Tihar jail in connection with the case, according to sources. Earlier on Monday, Delhi’s Rouse Avenue Court sent him to judicial custody until March 20.

Sisodia was arrested on February 26 in an ongoing investigation of a case related to alleged irregularities in the framing and implementation of the excise policy of the National Capital Territory of Delhi (GNCTD). ED last year filed its first chargesheet before a court in the national capital in the Delhi excise policy money laundering case, naming liquor businessman Sameer Mahandru as one of the accused.

The agency said it has so far undertaken nearly 200 search operations in this case after filing an FIR after taking cognisance of a CBI case that was registered on the recommendation of the Delhi lieutenant governor.

The CBI inquiry was recommended based on the findings of the Delhi chief secretary’s report filed in July, which showed prima facie violations of the GNCTD Act 1991, the Transaction of Business Rules (ToBR) of 1993, the Delhi Excise Act 2009, and the Delhi Excise Rules, officials had said.

In October, the ED had raided nearly three dozen locations in Delhi and Punjab following the arrest of Sameer Mahendru, Managing Director of Delhi’s Jor Bagh-based liquor distributor Indospirit Group, in the case and arrested him later. The CBI too filed its first charge sheet in the case early this week.

The ED and the CBI had alleged that irregularities were committed while modifying the excise policy, undue favours were extended to licence holders, the licence fee was waived or reduced, and the L-1 licence was extended without the competent authority’s approval. The beneficiaries diverted “illegal” gains to the accused officials and made false entries in their books of account to evade detection.

As per the allegations, the Excise Department had decided to refund the earnest money deposit of about Rs 30 crore to a successful tenderer against the set rules. Even though there was no enabling provision, a waiver on tendered licence fees was allowed from December 28, 2021, to January 27, 2022, due to COVID-19.

This allegedly caused a loss of Rs 144.36 crore to the exchequer, which has been instituted on a reference from the Union Home Ministry following a recommendation from Delhi Lieutenant-Governor Vinai Kumar Saxena.

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