Kejriwal’s new headache: What is the DJB case?

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal‘s troubles from the Enforcement Directorate (ED) are set to rise. With the courts affirming the validity of ED’s summons to him, two days ago the agency issued a fresh one to Kejriwal to join its investigation into the alleged liquor scam while also asking him to also join the probe into a new case: alleged money-laundering related to a Delhi Jal Board (DJB) case.

In the Delhi excise policy case, he had disregarded eight summonses till he got relief from the court. But now in addition to the excise policy case, ED wants to question him in the DJB case, just when the Election Commission has announced the schedule for the Lok Sabha polls.

The latest case pertains to alleged kickbacks in a contract awarded by the DJB to a private firm which the ED claims have gone to the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) as election funds. However, AAP Minister Atishi has said that the DJB case is being used as a backup plan by the Central government to arrest Kejriwal after he finally got bail in the Delhi excise policy case.

The DJB tender under scan

At the base of the case is a tender issued by DJB in 2017 in which a private firm was allegedly awarded the tender wrongfully. In July 2022, the CBI registered a case of corruption against officials of the Delhi Jal Board and the NBCC for allegedly favouring an ineligible private company in a contract worth Rs 38 crore for supply, installation, testing and commissioning of electromagnetic flow meters. Various property documents were also found from the residence of then NBCC General Manager.

The CBI had conducted searches in connection with the case at 10 locations in Delhi/NCR on the premises of the accused which led to the recovery of around Rs 1.5 crore in cash, jewellery worth about Rs 1.2 crore, fixed deposits worth Rs 69 lakh.

The probe claimed irregularities in the tendering process and accused the DJB officials of giving undue advantage to NKG Infrastructure Ltd while awarding tender to the company for the meters in connivance with officials of the NBCC.

The probe alleged that NKG Infrastructure managed to secure false performance certificates issued by DK Mittal, the then general manager, NBCC and fabricated deviation statement issued by Sadhan Kumar, the then project executive of the NBCC for qualifying for technical bid. NKG Infrastructure was further accused of conspiring with the then chief engineer, Jagdish Kumar Arora and his subordinate officers of the DJB for qualifying and bagging a tender worth Rs 38 crore. Investigation claimed that total principal loss incurred by the DJB during the period of the tender is Rs 14.41 crore.

Later, the Enforcement Directorate carried out searches on 16 premises in Delhi-NCR, Chennai and Kerala of officials of the DJB, the NBCC and private entities for alleged money laundering in connection with the electromagnetic flow meters case.

The agency booked former DJB officials chief engineer Arora, superintendent engineer PK Gupta, executive engineer Sushil Kumar Goel, assistant engineer Ashok Sharma, AAO Ranjit Kumar, then general manager NBCC DK Mittal and project executive Sadhan Kumar besides private company NKG Infrastructure Limited. The company obtained the bid by submitting forged documents and Arora was aware of the fact that the company did not meet the technical eligibility, the ED has claimed.

In January this year, the ED arrested Arora, who has retired as chief engineer, and contractor Anil Kumar Aggarwal under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), PTI had reported based on information from sources.

In early February, ED searched premises of Kejriwal’s personal assistant Bibhav Kumar and others as part of the ongoing probe. It claims that bribes generated from “irregularities” in the DJB tendering process were routed as election funds to the AAP. The residence of Bibhav Kumar, former DJB member Shalabh Kumar, office of party Rajya Sabha MP and national treasurer N D Gupta and a chartered accountant, Pankaj Mangal, apart from some others linked to AAP were searched by the ED.

A records analysis by the ED claims, PTI reported, that out of the contract value of Rs 38 crore, only about Rs 17 crore was spent towards the tender work and the remaining amount were siphoned off in guise of various fake expenses. Such fake expenses, the ED claims, were booked for bribes and election funds. The ED further claimed that Arora received the bribe in cash and in bank accounts after awarding the contract to NKG Infrastructure and that he passed on this money to various persons managing the affairs at the DJB including persons connected with the AAP. This is the second case where the federal agency has accused the AAP of taking kickbacks. It had earlier claimed that bribe money from the scrapped Delhi excise policy was used by the AAP for campaigning in Goa assembly elections.

The ED claimed that incriminating documents and digital evidence apart from valuables of Rs 1.97 crore and foreign currency worth Rs 4 lakh were seized during the raids conducted in the DJB case in Delhi, Varanasi and Chandigarh.

Another DJB case

The ED is conducting investigation in two separate matters of alleged irregularities in the tendering process of the DJB. Besides the money-laundering case pertaining to the electromagnetic flow meters tender, the ED is probing another money-laundering case registered on the basis of an FIR by the anti-corruption branch of Delhi government in which some DJB officials are accused of irregularities in awarding a tender for setting up bill payment collection machines (kiosks) at different locations of DJB offices.

“The tender was awarded to Corporation Bank in 2012, which was further sub-contracted to Chennai-based private companies Freshpay IT Solutions Pvt Ltd and Aurrum E-payments Pvt Ltd in violation of norms as prescribed in the agreement by not depositing the cash payment collections in bank account of DJB,” the ED has claimed.

The probe has claimed that during the demonetisation period, cash collections of Rs 10.4 crore were not deposited or transferred to the DJB. Funds collected in 2019 were reconciled with bill payments of the demonetisation period after a gap of more than 300 days.

What the AAP says

AAP leader and Delhi Minister Atishi has said they are unaware of the case registered by the ED in this matter. “Nobody knows about this Delhi Jal Board matter. These summons are being sent because PM Modi has started doubting whether they will be able to arrest Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal in the excise policy case. A backup plan is being initiated to arrest Arvind Kejriwal,” she said.

Atishi also claimed in a press conference after the ED raids in February that the officials of the agency just sat in the living room of Bibhav Kumar and took with them only two Gmail account downloads and three family phones. “You will be surprised to hear that the ED officers who came for the raids did not carry out any searches. They did not find any papers or make any inquiries or file any paperwork to tell in connection with which case they had come,” she told reporters.

(With inputs from TOI and PTI)

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