The Enforcement Directorate, in its chargesheet filed in connection with the now-scrapped Delhi excise policy, has alleged that businessman Dinesh Arora acted as a “conduit for kickbacks” between the ‘South group’ and the Aam Aadmi Party.
The ED chargesheet relies on statements made by Arora, Indospirits MD Sameer Mahendru and South group member Arun Pillai to allege that Arora took over from AAP communications in-charge Vijay Nair when the latter was busy with the Goa and Punjab Assembly elections. Arora, who is an approver in the CBI case, is not an accused in the ED case, but the agency has relied on his statements to make allegations of kickbacks from the South group, of which Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao’s daughter Kalvakuntla Kavitha is accused of being a member.
According to chargesheet, on an occasion, Delhi Deputy CM Manish Sisodia allegedly held a meeting of retailers, and when Arora arrived late, Sisodia asked him to sit next to him. This is based on Mahendru’s statement, recorded by the ED on September 10, 2022. According to the statement, Sisodia “gesturing” to Arora “to come and sit next to him” was a “message which was received by the market that he was close to AAP and specifically Dy CM”, the chargesheet alleges.
Sisodia’s legal team denied the allegations made in the chargesheet. “The allegations made in the chargesheet are false and there is no evidence apart from the statement of the accused. The agency does not have witnesses in this case and relies on the statement of the accused. We will make our case before the court during the trial.”
In Pillai’s statement to the ED, recorded on September 18, 2022, he told the agency that he met Nair and Arora at India Habitat Centre in November-December, 2021, the chargesheet states.
The chargesheet alleges that in this meeting, Nair told him that since he was busy with the elections in Goa and Punjab, “all matters related to the Delhi Excise will be managed by Arora”. It is alleged that Nair “meant that whatever demands/directions of kickbacks from Delhi Govt they will come through Dinesh Arora and he has been authorised to do so and that everyone in the liquor industry should follow his directions”.
It is alleged that “Nair had total control with regards to the policy drafting and all of its implementation; that Arora has been closely associated with AAP since the first time they came into power in Delhi; that he used to collect cash from all hoteliers and restaurants in Delhi for the AAP”.
The chargesheet alleges that Pillai told ED that Nair was staying in a house next to the Delhi CM’s office and had “full access to him since he handled the social media handles and advertisements for AAP”. He, however, clarified that Nair has “not specifically told him that he discussed excise matters with the CM” but since he was working closely with the party, “it may be understood that he was discussing these policy formulation issues with Delhi CM and CM office”, the chargesheet alleges. Arora claimed that when L1 application file of Indospirits was stuck with Excise department, he brought this to Nair’s notice, who “spoke to… Secretary to Manish Sisodia, who sent necessary instructions to the Excise department”, it is alleged.