NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India’s federal financial crime agency on Friday raided several liquor companies, suppliers and distributors as part of a probe into money laundering the ruling party in the capital criticized as politically motivated, media reported.
The agency, the Directorate of Law Enforcement (ED), is investigating alleged irregularities in the alcohol policy of the Delhi government led by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), after a government official released a report in July in which it suggested the policy benefited private liquor retailers by offering them discounts at the expense of the public purse, media reported.
The federally appointed Lieutenant Governor of Delhi then recommended an investigation by the ED and the federal Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into the policy.
Delhi’s deputy chief minister, Manish Sisodia of the AAP, denied allegations of wrongdoing but dropped the policy in late July after the lieutenant governor called for the investigation.
“More than 500 raids, for more than three months, more than 300 ED and CBI officials are working around the clock to find evidence against Manish Sisodia,” Delhi’s chief minister and chief of staff wrote on Friday. AAP, Arvind Kejriwal on Twitter.
“They don’t find anything because (he) didn’t do anything. For your dirty politics, you are wasting the time of so many officials. How is a country like this going to progress?
Phone calls and a text message from Reuters to ED headquarters and an agency official went unanswered.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) hailed the investigation and brought corruption charges against the AAP-led Delhi government.
The AAP – its name in Hindi means “ordinary man” – was born in 2012 from an anti-corruption movement and won power in the capital, where 20 million people live, in 2013.
In March, he swept a state assembly election in Punjab state, bolstering his hopes of becoming Modi’s BJP main challenger in India’s next general election, due by 2024.
The ED raided 35 sites in Delhi, Hyderabad, the state capital of Telangana, and Punjab on Friday, media reported.
The AAP said it implemented the new policy in an effort to increase government revenue and improve customer service at liquor stores.
(Reporting by Shivam Patel in New Delhi; Editing by Robert Birsel)