Delhi Deputy CM Manish Sisodia at his residence during a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) raid in connection with alleged irregularities in Delhi Excise Policy, in New Delhi, Friday, August 19, 2022. Image Credit: ANI

New Delhi: The Central Bureau of Investigation on Friday conducted searches at the residence of Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia and several other locations in different states in connection with the alleged scam in the recently withdrawn excise policy of the Aam Aadmi Party government.

While the BJP leaders attacked the AAP government over “liquor corruption” and the Congress leaders backed the CBI action, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said that the probe agency “will find nothing”.

CBI said searches were being conducted on Friday at 31 locations including in Delhi, Gurugram, Chandigarh, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Lucknow, Bengaluru which, so far, have led to the recovery of incriminating documents, articles and digital records. It said investigations are underway.

The CBI has registered an FIR in connection with the case. Delhi Lieutenant Governor VK Saxena had in July recommended a CBI probe over alleged violations of rules in the Excise Policy which was implemented in November last year.

He had earlier this month suspended 11 officials, including then Delhi excise commissioner Arava Gopi Krishna and deputy excise commissioner Anand Kumar Tiwari, over “lapses” in the implementation of the Excise Policy.

Sisodia was among 15 people booked in the FIR filed by CBI. Excise officials, liquor company executives, dealers along with unknown public servants and private persons have also been booked in the case.

The FIR said that “facts in the matter prima facie disclose the commission of offences” punishable under section 120-B, 477A IPC and section 7 of the Prevention of Corruption Act 1988” against the accused.

The premises of then Excise Commissioner Arava Gopi Krishna and Anand Tiwari were among those searched.

The raids led to a political slugfest with Union Minister Anurag Thakur hitting out at Kejriwal and Sisodia over alleged “liquor corruption”.

Delhi Police personnel detained AAP party supporters during a protest over CBI raids at Deputy CM Manish Sisodia's residence, in New Delhi on Friday, August 19, 2022. Image Credit: ANI

“No matter how hard a corrupt person tries to prove himself innocent, he will still remain corrupt. This is not the first case of corruption by AAP. There has been huge corruption in the liquor stores in Delhi,” Thakur said.

The Union Minister alleged that Delhi’s liquor policy was withdrawn on the same day a CBI investigation was ordered into it. “If there was no scam in the liquor policy, why was it withdrawn?” Thakur asked.

The Union Minister also alleged that Kejriwal was shielding the corrupt. “Even when Satyendra Jain went to jail for corruption, he did not sack him and then he (Jain) claimed that he lost his memory.

“The Excise Minister has become Excuse Minister but I hope that his memory should not be lost,” Thakur said. Delhi Health Minister Jain is currently in judicial custody after being arrested in connection with a money laundering case.

On the basis of a report by the Delhi Chief Secretary, Delhi Lieutenant Governor had in July this year recommended a CBI probe into the Delhi Excise Policy over alleged violations of procedural lapses to “provide post tender undue benefits to liquor licensees.”

The Excise policy handed over the sale of liquor to private players and shut down all government-run liquor outlets.

On July 30, Sisodia announced a rollback and said only government outlets would sell liquor in Delhi from August 1.

As CBI officials arrived at his residence this morning, Sisodia said the AAP government is honest and referred to its work in the field of education.

“CBI has arrived. We are honest, building a future for lakhs of children. Unfortunate that in this country, whoever does good work is hassled just like this, that is why our country is still not number-1.”

Kejriwal also conveyed his support for Sisodia saying that nothing will come out of this raid and that many such happened in past. “I welcome CBI. We will cooperate fully. There have been many such probes, and raids in past. Nothing came out. Nothing will come out this time too,” Kejriwal said.

“CBI is doing its work, there is no need to be scared. We should let CBI do its work, they have an order from the top to hassle us. Obstacles will come but work won’t stop,” he added.

Sisodia also said he will cooperate with the investigation so that the truth comes out at the earliest.

“These people are troubled by the excellent work of Delhi’s education and health. That is why the health minister and the education minister of Delhi are on the radar so that the good work of education and health can be stopped,” Sisodia wrote.

“I extend my welcome to the CBI. I will cooperate with the investigation so that the truth comes out at the earliest. Till now many cases have been filed against me but nothing has come out. Nothing will come out of it either. My work cannot be stopped for a good education in the country,” he added.

Kejriwal tweeted mentioning that the CBI has raided his residence after a picture of the Delhi Model and Manish Sisodia appeared on the front page of American newspaper- New York Times.

Delhi BJP chief Adesh Gupta slammed the AAP government for introducing the Excise Policy even as Delhi was grappling with situation created by COVID-19.

“They were not bothered about Covid but their sole focus was on bringing a new excise policy. They waived off Rs144 crore and gave the contracts to blacklisted companies instead of using the money for Covid relief,” Gupta alleged.

“Ever since the new excise policy came into force, Sisodia along with Kejriwal kept making money by colluding with the liquor mafia. And when the CBI started the investigation, they started talking about various things due to the fear of being exposed,” Gupta told media persons.

AAP leader Sanjay Singh stressed that the raids on Delhi’s Deputy CM were an attempt to stop the “revolutionary work done in the education and health sector” by the Kejriwal-led Delhi government.