Enforcement Directorate tells Supreme Court it has evidence of Arvind Kejriwal’s hawala links

SC reserves judgment on Delhi CM’s plea to quash his ED arrest in PMLA case; court said Kejriwal was at liberty to apply for bail in accordance with law notwithstanding the reserved verdict

Updated - May 18, 2024 06:33 am IST

Published - May 17, 2024 09:07 pm IST - NEW DELHI:

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal addresses party workers at a meeting in Amritsar on May 17, 2024.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal addresses party workers at a meeting in Amritsar on May 17, 2024. | Photo Credit: PTI

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Friday informed the Supreme Court that it had unearthed direct evidence of “chats” between Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and hawala operators through whom kickbacks in the liquor policy case were paid.

Mr. Kejriwal countered the ED was making a last-ditch attempt to prejudice the court against him.

The submission by the ED in the Supreme Court coincided with the Central agency filing a supplementary chargesheet at Rouse Avenue court, formally naming Mr. Kejriwal and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) as accused in the money laundering case linked to the excise policy change in the national capital. The chargesheet was filed shortly after the ED informed the Supreme Court of its intention to do so.

Also Read: Arvind Kejriwal hearing live-updates May 17

However, the apex court Bench of Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Dipankar Datta, while reserving its judgment on the petition filed by Mr. Kejriwal seeking to quash his arrest on March 21, gave him an option to apply for bail in accordance with law. The liberty was given to Mr. Kejriwal notwithstanding the fact that the verdict was reserved.

Mr. Kejriwal, if he chooses, can apply for bail under Section 45 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). He is already out campaigning for the Lok Sabha elections on an interim bail allowed him by the Supreme Court on May 10. The Chief Minister has to surrender on June 2.

Bail under PMLA is applied for in the Special Court under Section 45 of the Act. An accused seeking bail has to satisfy the stringent twin conditions that he is prima facie innocent and is not likely to commit an offence in the future.

‘The kingpin’

During the hearing, the ED said it had evidence that ₹45 crore in “kickbacks” out of a ₹100 crore in “bribe” went to the AAP coffers to campaign for the Goa Assembly elections in 2022. Additional Solicitor General S.V. Raju alleged the kickbacks were sent via hawala operators and Mr. Kejriwal was the “kingpin” behind the scam.

Senior advocate A.M. Singhvi, for Mr. Kejriwal, countered the Central agency had nothing to show that any money came to his client or was used in the Goa election campaign.

He submitted that Mr. Kejriwal’s arrest came a year-and-half after the ED registered a case in August 2023. It had no new evidence against Mr. Kejriwal, except “zero-weight” statements recorded from accused-turned-approvers till July last year. There were multiple statements recorded from the same people earlier in which they had denied any links between Mr. Kejriwal and the liquor business. He said it was obvious they had cracked under extreme pressure from the agency. Mr. Singhvi asked why the ED had waited from July 2023 till March 2024 to arrest Mr. Kejriwal.

The senior lawyer accused the ED of suppressing evidence against Mr. Kejriwal when sacrosanct rights of life and liberty were at stake.

At one point, Mr. Raju intervened to say Mr. Singhvi was making wrong submissions “left and right”. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, also for the ED, pitched in that the senior lawyer was being “economical with the truth”.

The court asked for the case records leading to the arrest of Mr. Kejriwal.

“Did you visit Goa during the elections?” Justice Datta asked Mr. Singhvi about his client during the hearing.

“It was my party. I had to campaign there,” Mr. Singhvi replied.

“Did you stay in that [seven-star] hotel in Goa?” Justice Datta persisted.

Mr. Singhvi said the NCT government had paid for the hotel. “It was ₹1 lakh or something…” he responded.

Justice Khanna confronted Mr. Singhvi with the ED’s submission that it had now evidence of money trail from Andhra Pradesh to Goa for campaigning.

“But there is not even an iota of evidence in the grounds of my arrest,” Mr. Singhvi responded.

He submitted that the investigating officer (IO) had to spell out four factors in the grounds of arrest under Section 19 for a valid arrest.

“He [probe officer] has to show he has applied his mind to why an arrest is necessary; is arrest really required; what is the purpose of the arrest; what is the objective the arrest would achieve…. He cannot come before the accused with the inscrutable face of an Egyptian sphinx and arrest him,” Mr. Singhvi argued.

Every material the IO had pre-dated August 2023, Mr. Singhvi submitted.

“But there was a change in the liquor policy. Middlemen got a huge cut of 5% to 6%. The background for the change was ₹100 crore,” Justice Khanna pointed out.

“There is nothing to show that the money came to me,” Mr. Singhvi maintained.

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