ED arrests Delhi Chief Minister Kejriwal

New Delhi: The Enforcement Directorate (ED) arrested Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal in an excise policy-linked money laundering case on Thursday night and took him to the agency's headquarters here, officials said.

The arrest, the first of a sitting chief minister, came hours after the Delhi High Court refused to grant protection to the AAP national convenor from any coercive action by the agency.

The 55-year-old leader's arrest, amid campaign for the Lok Sabha elections, drew angry reactions from his Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). The party said Kejriwal "will continue as the chief minister of Delhi. If need be, he will run the government from jail."

The BJP though demanded that Kejriwal step down as chief minister on moral grounds.

In a day of fast-paced developments, a 10-member ED team led by an additional director reached his official residence on Flagstaff Road in Civil Lines in the national capital soon after the high court order and carried out searches. He was arrested more than two hours after the ED team arrived at his residence, officials said.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal being taken from his residence by the Enforcement Directorate in an excise policy-linked money laundering case in New Delhi on Thursday. Photo: PTI

The ED also questioned Kejriwal briefly before making the arrest, sources said, adding that some seizures have also been made.

The officials said the federal agency brought Kejriwal to its office in central Delhi around 11.25 pm in an SUV. The chief minister was seen sitting in the rear seat of the vehicle wearing a white half-shirt. He was escorted by three ED officers.

A team of doctors and medics, called by the ED, conducted a basic checkup of Kejriwal as per the stipulated procedure undertaken for people arrested and kept in custody before production in court, the officials said.
This is the 16th arrest in the case by the ED.

The officials said the ED would produce the chief minister before a court here on Friday and seek his custody for interrogation in the case.

The ED has filed a total of six charge sheets in this case till now and attached assets worth over Rs 128 crore.

The ED and the CBI have alleged that the Delhi government's excise policy to grant licences to liquor traders allowed cartelisation and favoured certain dealers who had allegedly paid bribes for it, a charge strongly refuted by AAP.

Police detain AAP MLA Jarnail Singh who was protesting in support of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal outside his residence in New Delhi on Thursday. Photo: PTI

The policy was subsequently scrapped and Delhi Lieutenant Governor V K Saxena recommended a CBI probe into the irregularities in its formulation and implementation.

Kejriwal had skipped nine summonses issued by the agency for questioning in the case, the latest being for Thursday, March 21. He has called these summonses "illegal".

As the ED officials carried out their action inside, additional Delhi Police personnel and Rapid Action Force (RAF) and CRPF teams were deployed around the chief minister's residence.

The additional deployment was made as the ED sought extra security measures in anticipation of protests by AAP supporters, sources said.

A large number of AAP workers and leaders gathered near the chief minister's residence and shouted slogans hailing Kejriwal and denouncing the ED action.

The Delhi Police also stepped up security around the agency office on A P J Abdul Kalam Road in central Delhi.

During the day, Kejriwal moved the Supreme Court against the high court's order denying him any relief in the matter. Later, AAP leader Atishi said they have moved the Supreme Court for quashing the arrest of Kejriwal and "asked for an urgent hearing...tonight itself."

The ED's action is virtually a replay of what transpired during the arrest last week of Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) leader K Kavitha, who is now in ED custody in the same case.

Security personnel deployed outside the residence of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal in New Delhi on Thursday. Photo: PTI

The case pertains to alleged corruption and money laundering in formulating and executing the Delhi government's excise policy for 2021-22, which was later scrapped.

AAP leaders Manish Sisodia and Sanjay Singh are in judicial custody in the case.

Kejriwal's name has been mentioned multiple times in the charge sheets filed by the ED. The agency has alleged that the accused were in touch with Kejriwal for formulating the excise policy that resulted in undue benefits to them in return for which they paid kickbacks to the AAP.

The ED had recently alleged in a statement that BRS leader Kavitha and some others "conspired" with top AAP leaders like Kejriwal and Sisodia to get favours in the now-scrapped Delhi excise policy by paying Rs 100 crore to the political party that rules Delhi.

Forty-six-year-old Kavitha, the MLC daughter of former Telangana chief minister K Chandrashekar Rao, was arrested by the federal agency last week from her Hyderabad home and she is in custody till March 23.

AAP leader and Delhi minister Saurabh Bharadwaj, who reached Kejriwal's residence soon after the ED team's arrival, told reporters, "It seems that the ED is carrying out raids. I have not been allowed to go inside. Its looks like ED is planning to arrest him."

Atishi who were among those gathered outside the chief minister's residence, told reporters, "This entire episode shows how scared Prime Minister Narendra Modi is of Kejriwal. He has hatched a conspiracy to send him to jail before the Lok Sabha election."

Reacting to the ED action, AAP MP Raghav Chadha alleged a "big conspiracy" to arrest Kejriwal just before the Lok Sabha elections.

In a series of posts on X, the party said, "ED reached the house of Delhi's son @ArvindKejriwal! BJP should know that it is trying to move the mountain in whose support the entire country stands today. The people of Delhi are watching everything. No one will sit silent today."

Using the hashtag #IstandWithKejriwal, it said, "The BJP can stoop down to any level to make Arvind Kejriwal bow down. The people of the country including entire Delhi are standing with their hero Arvind Kejriwal today. This dictatorship of yours will not last. And a Kejriwal will emerge from every house."

Reacting to the agency action, Delhi BJP president Virendra Sachdeva said, "If Kejriwal has any morality left he should step down and cooperate with the ED."

Earlier in the day, a Delhi High Court bench of Justices Suresh Kumar Kait and Manoj Jain refused to grant Kejriwal any protection from coercive action in the case.

The bench listed the AAP leader's application for further consideration on April 22 when his main petition challenging the summons is fixed for hearing, and asked the Enforcement Directorate to file its response.

Kejriwal is also facing an ED case in connection with alleged irregularities in the Delhi Jal Board (DJB).

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