The Delhi excise policy probe sees CBI calling BRS leader K Kavitha on February 26

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has summoned Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) leader K Kavitha to appear before it on February 26 regarding its investigation into corruption allegations surrounding the Delhi excise policy 2021-22, according to sources familiar with the matter.

Kavitha, who is the daughter of former Telangana chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao, was previously questioned by the anti-corruption agency in December 2022. Additionally, the Enforcement Directorate (ED), conducting a parallel investigation into money laundering, interrogated her in March 2023.

Nitesh Rana, representing K Kavitha legally, declined to comment on the recent CBI summons.

The agency aims to uncover Kavitha's involvement in influencing the excise policy and alleged bribery activities.

It has been claimed that Kavitha maintained communication with Vijay Nair, then-communication in-charge of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), who was reportedly engaging with liquor industry representatives and politicians during the formulation and execution of the now-revoked policy.

According to the investigating agencies, the Indospirits Group, led by Delhi-based businessman Sameer Mahendru, controlled multiple retail zones under the excise policy and purportedly facilitated kickbacks amounting to Rs. 100 crore to AAP leaders through an alleged South Group, of which Kavitha was purportedly a part.

The ED alleges that a portion of the kickbacks generated from the Delhi excise policy was utilized in the AAP's campaign during the 2022 Goa assembly elections.

The South Group allegedly consisted of YSR Congress MP Magunta Srinivasulu Reddy, his son Raghav Magunta, Sarath Reddy (Aurobindo Group promoter), K Kavitha, and Mahendru, represented by individuals such as Abhishek Boinpally, Arun Pillai, and Butchibabu in meetings with Nair and other liquor industry representatives.

During her interrogation by the ED in March last year, Kavitha was confronted with statements from her former chartered accountant Butchibabu Gorantla and Pillai, who purportedly represented her interests during meetings with Nair and others. Butchibabu was apprehended by the CBI in February 2023, while Pillai was arrested by the ED in March.

Butchibabu's statement to the ED officials in February 2023 alleged a political understanding between K Kavitha and Delhi's Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and former Deputy CM Manish Sisodia. Pillai, according to investigators, managed Kavitha's benami investments and played a role in cartel formation and the disbursement of bribes on behalf of the South Group.

The 2021-22 excise policy of the Delhi government aimed to rejuvenate the city's liquor industry by replacing a sales-volume-based regime with a trader license fee, promising improved retail outlets devoid of metal grilles, thereby enhancing the shopping experience for customers. However, the policy was terminated prematurely following allegations of irregularities, leading to its replacement by the 2020-21 regime amidst claims of revenue shortfall due to last-minute changes.

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