AAP Senior Leader and Delhi Minister Ms Atishi on Sunday exposed the political vendetta by the BJP to crush AAP by highlighting a recent bail order of the Rouse Avenue Court that has held all the allegations made by ED of bribes and kickbacks under the Delhi Excise Policy case as bogus, based on vague statements and without any material evidence. Speaking at a press conference, Ms Atishi highlighted that the court had granted bail to two key accused in the Delhi Excise Case, Rajesh Joshi and Gautam Malhotra, and reprimanded ED for making allegations without any corroborative evidence. She further stated that both Rajesh Joshi and Gautam Malhotra were central figures in ED-CBI’s allegations of kickbacks worth 100 crores being spent in Goa elections, but they were granted bail on account of no evidence. Further, the court’s order has clearly highlighted that not even one rupee has been embezzled in the Excise Case. Ms Atishi has now called upon the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to come forward and apologize for defaming AAP and misleading the nation.

While, AAP National Convenor and Delhi CM Shri Arvind Kejriwal wrote on Twitter that, “Now even the Court has said that there is no material evidence of any kickback or money laundering. We have been saying right from the beginning that the entire liquor scam is bogus and meant only to malign AAP.”

The court’s decision also reprimanded ED officers for using contradictory and frivolous statements to frame the accused persons in the case. Ms Atishi pointed out that ED had first alleged a scam of Rs 100 crore, then it settled to allege a scam of Rs 30 crore, and finally, the court stated that there is absolutely no material evidence to even prove this. ED had accused Rajesh Joshi of translocating 30 crores to Goa through ‘parchis,’ but it failed to prove any such activity in the court. Notably, the CBI-ED had raided every vendor who dealt with AAP election campaign in Goa. But after extensive investigations, it has found that AAP spent only Rs 19 lakh in cash in the entire Goa elections. The entire investigation has proved that CBI-ED came under the pressure of the ‘Fourth-Pass King’, tortured witnesses, and took false statements by harassing them. She condemned these actions and demanded strict action against those responsible.

Addressing a press conference on the issue Delhi Cabinet Minister Ms Atishi said that for the last one year, senior leaders and spokespersons of the BJP have conducted multiple press conferences to claim that an alleged Excise Policy scam took place in Delhi. The same allegations that were made by the BJP leaders and spokespersons on TV for several months later found their way into the chargesheets filed by the CBI and ED.

She added that it has now been over six months since the CBI and the ED started their investigation in this case and added that over 500 officers were involved in the investigation into this alleged scam. “Let us analyse what this so-called “scam” really is. So, there are two key arguments in this case. The first states that in the process of forming the new excise policy, Rs 100 crores were taken as kickbacks from several liquor traders. This is the primary allegation that first the leaders of the BJP alleged, and later this argument was also made by the CBI and the ED. The second argument is that this kickback taken was used by the Aam Aadmi Party in the run-up to the state elections in Goa,” she said.

She added that these allegations have been made by multiple leaders of the BJP hundreds of times in the last couple of months via TV debates and press conferences. But yesterday the Rouse Avenue Court gave an order that runs into 85 pages and it also provided bail to two accused in the case – Rajesh Joshi and Gautam Malhotra. “I want the leaders of the BJP to read the order given by the court. I also want all the TV channels that created a lot of noise regarding this case to read this order as well. This order of the court makes it crystal clear that forget the Rs 100 crore that ED has been alleging in this so-called scam, the agency does not have any evidence to highlight a scam of even one single paisa. In this 85-page order the judge is seen repeating on key point that the investigative agencies have not provided any evidence to back their claim regarding a scam,” she said.

Providing further details about the first allegation in the case, she said that the chargesheets filed by the agencies claimed that Gautam Malhotra was one of the liquor traders who have allegedly paid kickbacks of Rs 100 crores to AAP. Reading out the excerpt from paragraph 74 of yesterday’s court order, Ms Atishi said, “There is no specific evidence showing any such cash payment towards the payment of bribe or repayment of kickbacks. The only evidence presented has been some vague statements made by witnesses and on the basis of these statements it cannot be inferred that cash payments were given as bribes.” She further added that the court essentially makes it clear that there is no evidence to claim even the payment of Rs 1 of bribe money.

Lambasting the ED, Ms Atishi said that their story begins by claiming kickbacks worth Rs 100 crore, but how they came up with this exact figure has never been explained. She further added that in their chargesheet filed in the court, the ED has claimed kickbacks worth Rs 30 crore only. “So from claiming a scam worth Rs 100 crore first, the ED on its own later changed the figure to Rs 30 crore. Even regarding this figure, the ED has claimed that an accused named Rajesh Joshi, who is a small-time vendor and is involved in putting up posters and outdoor hoardings and sending SMSs, etc. It was claimed by the ED that it was through Rajesh Joshi that this Rs 30 crore worth of kickbacks first came to Delhi and then through him this money travelled from Delhi to Goa,” she said. Reading out another excerpt from the court order, Ms Atishi said that in paragraph No. 44 the court makes this observation about the translocation of this alleged Rs 30 crores worth kickbacks. “There is no independent evidence collected by the investigating agency to substantiate or corroborate this fact,” she said.

She highlighted how the ED first alleged a scam of Rs 100 crore, but later it settled to allege a scam of Rs 30 crore and finally the court said that there is absolutely no evidence to even prove this. She pointed out that the court also made an observation against the tactics employed by the ED. “The court has essentially said that the evidence being produced by the ED – that Rajesh Joshi’s phone number was saved on the phone of some accused and that the former called the accused – cannot be considered to be any evidence regarding this case. The court made it clear that a phone number saved or a call made by one person to another cannot be considered to be evidence in this case,” she said.

She further added that the allegation made by the ED against Rajesh Joshi was that the hawala of Rs 30 crore that was shifted from Delhi to Goa was done through the medium of paper slips. She said that the court made a very strong reaction on this claim of the ED in paragraph 46 of the order. “However even these paper slips have not been recovered either in hard or in digital form from the mobile phone of any witness or any hawala operator. No record seized from any hawala operator in connection with this amount has been presented to this court,” she read.

The Rouse Avenue Court’s decision has a significant impact on the Delhi Excise Policy case, as it casts doubt on the statements given by the ED’s star witness and approver, Dinesh Arora. The Rouse Avenue Court stated that Dinesh Arora’s statements are contradictory, lacked any satisfactory corroborative material, and the witness himself was unsure of how much money was given as kickbacks and who received them. The court observed huge contradictions in the various statements of Dinesh Arora regarding the alleged cash transfer of Rs 1 crore to Rajesh Joshi. In his first statement (30.09.2022), Dinesh Arora remained silent on cash given to Rajesh Joshi, in next statement (01.010.2022), he said he gave Rs 1 crore in cash to Rajesh Joshi, and then in a subsequent statement (05.10.2022) he corrects himself saying he received Rs 1 crore cash from Rajesh Joshi. Finally, when confronted with Rajesh Joshi on 11.02.2023, Dinesh Arora says he had never met Rajesh Joshi before.

Additionally, the ED had alleged that Rs 2.5 crore worth kickback were given by Gautam Malhotra to co-accused Amit Arora on the instructions of ED’s star witness and approver Dinesh Arora. But the case fell flat as Dinesh Arora himself denied any knowledge of such kickbacks, in complete contradiction to ED’s allegation.

Explaining some key arguments from the order she said, “The first allegation made by the investigative agencies claiming a scam of Rs 100 crore falls flat. The court order itself says that no transfer of any money has been shown by the ED. The second allegation claiming that the kickbacks were spent for the election in Goa has also turned out to be false. Over the last six months, several officers of the ED and CBI have been sitting in Goa. They have conducted raids in the office of every vendor that has worked with AAP in the state. Some of these vendors were called for investigation in Goa and some were even called to Delhi. After this six month long investigation in which so many people were harassed and a scam of Rs 100 crore was alleged, the ED in the court has said that AAP had used only Rs 19 lakh in cash for the Goa assembly elections. So, the ED has after conducting this long investigation, said it in front of the court itself, that the Aam Aadmi Party is the most honest political party of the country. The agency has said that AAP only used Rs 19 lakh in cash, and all the other money to fight the elections were used in cheques,” she said.

Ms Atishi said that she hoped that those leaders and spokespersons of the BJP who had been going around screaming for over a year now that an Excise Policy scam took place in Delhi will now read this order and then come out and conduct press conferences to inform the people that no such scam took place. “The order of the court that was released yesterday has highlighted the misuse of agencies such as CBI and the ED. The order makes it clear that these chargesheets filed by these agencies are not written in their offices, but are written in the Prime Minister’s Office. After filing such chargesheets, pressure is put on the officers to find evidence to prove the allegations,” she said.

She added, “After that, the officers of the ED and CBI call the people accused in the case and threaten them. Some of them are also physically beaten up and forced to say things that the PMO wants them to say. We have seen that three people in this case – Sameer Mahendru, Arvind Pillai and Chandan Reddy, eventually took back the statements that were made by them. They further alleged that they were pressurised to say particular things against AAP leaders. The medical report of Chandan Reddy also shows that he was tortured and slapped so hard that he is facing hearing disabilities now,” she said.

She also highlighted how the CBI and the ED lied to the public and said that Shri Manish Sisodia destroyed 14 phones to hide facts of the case. “But when we did a little bit of research, and checked the IMEI number, we found out that of these 14 phones, 7 are with the ED and CBI themselves. The remaining 7 phones are still under use. So, therefore what the agencies show in court as evidence turns out to be fabricated. But then the CBI and ED officers are forced to do other things as they have to eventually report to the PMO, then they go on to file the name of Shri Sanjay Singh in the case. But the moment Sanjay Singh sends them a legal notice, the ED is forced to come out with an apology,” she said.

Ms Atishi said that it has been made very clear in front of the nation today that whatever was being claimed under the pretext of an “excise policy scam” is nothing but lies and fabrications. “Without any evidence all of this was being alleged. The court has said it clearly in its order and I repeat it – There is absence of any satisfactory corroborative material and there are contradictions and deficiencies in the statements that are being made by the Enforcement Directorate,” she said.

She concluded by saying that now that the courts have made these observations, it is important for the ED and the CBI, as well as the Central Government led by PM Narendra Modi to come out and tell the nation that they had been lying all along. “The PM and the BJP should come out and apologise to the nation and say it clearly that they had been stating lies all along to defame the Aam Aadmi Party and Shri Arvind Kejriwal and Shri Manish Sisodia,” she said.

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