Following the arrest of Delhi health minister Satyendar Jain by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in a money laundering case, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the ruling BJP at the Centre are at odds once again. After a few hours of interrogation on Monday, the AAP leader was sent to jail under criminal portions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 (PMLA).
While the BJP and the Congress applauded the move, AAP leader and Delhi Deputy CM Manish Sisodia accused that Jain was being detained in an eight years old “fake” case. The ED detained the health minister after interviewing him, saying that he was “evasive” in his responses. Jain is expected to appear in front of a designated judge today.
The ED temporarily attached immovable assets worth Rs 4.81 crores last month, belonging to Akinchan Developers Pvt Ltd, Indo Metal Impex Pvt Ltd, Paryas Infosolutions Pvt Ltd, Manglayatan Projects Pvt Ltd, and JJ Ideal Estate Pvt Ltd. In addition, properties belonging to Swati Jain, Sushila Jain, Ajit Prasad Jain, and Indu Jain have been seized in a case involving disproportionate assets. Satyendar Jain was allegedly involved in hawala transactions with a Kolkata-based business during 2015-16, according to the ED. Based on a FIR lodged by the CBI in August 2017 following accusations of suspected ownership of excessive assets, the financial investigation agency initiated a money laundering case. Jain and his family allegedly used four shell businesses to launder Rs 11.78 crores during 2011-12, and Rs 4.63 crores during 2015-16, according to the agency. The Income Tax Department has reportedly looked into these transactions as well, and issued an order seizing the “benami assets” purportedly tied to Jain.
Deputy CM Sisodia stated on Twitter that Jain was detained because he is the AAP’s in-charge of the Himachal Pradesh assembly election, which the BJP is frightened of losing. According to CBI sources, between 2010 and 2016, the monies were reportedly used to acquire over 200 bighas of land in Delhi’s Auchandi, Bawana, Karala, and Mohammed Mazvi areas.
“A fake case has been going on against Satyendar Jain for eight years. He has been called by the ED several times so far. The ED had stopped calling him for some time because it did not find anything against him. Now it has again started because he is the in-charge of Himachal Pradesh elections,” tweeted Sisodia, in Hindi.
AAP MP Sanjay Singh said that Jain was detained by the ED in a “baseless” case to “defame” the party shortly after being designated as AAP’s in-charge in the poll-bound state. Delhi BJP chairman Adesh Gupta claimed that his party has previously addressed the subject of “corruption” by the AAP and its leaders. Gupta explained that Kejriwal has always been tight-lipped about allegations of corruption against his party’s leaders. He said that people want Kejriwal to talk about Jain’s detention by the ED, which comes only days after another AAP minister was detained and ousted in Punjab.
“Investigation by the ED revealed that during the period 2015-16, when Sh. Satyendar Kumar Jain was a public servant, the above-mentioned companies beneficially owned and controlled by him received accommodation entries to the tune of Rs 4.81 crore from shell companies against cash transferred to Kolkata-based entry operators through the Hawala route. These amounts were utilised for direct purchase of land or for the repayment of loan taken for purchase of agricultural land in and around Delhi,” the ED had said in a statement.
Jain’s arrest, according to Delhi Congress president Anil Kumar, was the “right step” by the ED. “Jain should have been arrested much earlier. Kejriwal has been protecting him for years,” said Kumar. Interestingly, in February this year, AAP national convener and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal claimed that he had learnt from sources that the ED was going to arrest Jain just before the Punjab assembly election. He accused the Centre of targeting the AAP after realising that the BJP “would lose” the polls. According to the CBI, Jain held authority over these firms, either as a director or by owning one-third of the shares in his name or in the names of his family members or others.
Satyendar Jain must be produced before the special court within 24 hours, according to the ED. When he is brought before the court, the ED will have to explain why he was arrested and if he needs to be interrogated in custody. Jain’s legal team can object to any detention when he is brought before the court, and also file a bail motion.