Politics

Karnataka Congress Leader Shivakumar Arrested on Money Laundering Charges

The former cabinet minister appeared for the fourth time before the Central probe agency on Tuesday.

New Delhi: The Enforcement Directorate (ED) arrested Congress leader D.K. Shivakumar on Tuesday in connection with a money laundering case. The party’s ‘troubleshooter’ had been questioned several times over the past few days.

According to reports, Shivakumar was placed under arrest as per provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) after a long session of grilling. Shivakumar, a former cabinet minister, appeared before the Central probe agency for questioning for the fourth time on Tuesday at its headquarters in Khan Market. He is the MLA for the Kanakapura seat.

According to reports, Shivakumar was grilled about his business transactions with Sunil Kumar Sharma, the proprietor of Sharma Travels and also his connection with Cafe Coffee Day. He was arrested by the ED because Shivakumar was apparently not co-operating with the probe.

According to The News Minute, the probe began after the income tax department filed a chargesheet alleging the Congress leader was involved in money laundering. The case was registered after sleuths found Rs 8.83 crore cash during a search and seizure operation in August 2017 at his properties in New Delhi, including his Safdarjung Enclave residence.

The ED will seek his custody after producing Shivakumar before a Delhi court on Wednesday. The Central agency had in September last year registered a money laundering case against Shivakumar, Haumanthaiah – an employee at Karnataka Bhavan in New Delhi – and others.

Shivakumar had denied any wrongdoing and said that he was being targeted for playing an “instrumental role” in ensuring the safe stay of Gujarat Congress MLAs in a Karnataka resort during the Rajya Sabha polls in 2017. Reports said at the time that the BJP was trying to poach these MLAs. Ahmed Patel was contesting the Rajya Sabha election from Gujarat in 2017, when Shivakumar hosted 44 Gujarat Congress MLAs at a resort to keep the flock together.

Subsequently, the income tax department and the ED conducted searches against him.

Shivakumar also played an instrumental role in the recent political crisis in Karnataka. He tried to convince the rebel Congress and JD(S) MLAs to return to their party folds. His efforts were unsuccessful and the BJP was able to topple the coalition government. Since then, B.S. Yediyurappa has been sworn in as the chief minister.

While making his first appearance before the agency here on August 30, Shivakumar had said that he would cooperate with the ED in the probe.

“It is my duty (to appear)… I have to respect the law. We are lawmakers and law abiding citizens. They (ED) have summoned me… I don’t know why they have called me under the PMLA,” he said.

“But, let me see, hear them. I am ready to face them (ED),” he told reporters outside the ED office.

Congress party leaders in Karnataka on Tuesday cried foul, saying their colleague was a victim of vendetta politics, a charge rejected by the BJP leaders.

Congress’s Karnataka chief Dinesh Gundu Rao accused the BJP of using investigating agencies to “vindictively target” opposition leaders. He said the party stood with Shivakumar while former MP V.S. Ugrappa called it “witch-hunting” and took exception to the leader being summoned for questioning on Ganesh Chaturthi.

Shivakumar had to appear before the agency after the Karnataka high court last week dismissed his petition challenging the summons issued to him by the ED.

The ED had filed a PMLA case against him and others based on a chargesheet (prosecution complaint) filed by the income tax department against them last year before a special court in Bengaluru. The chargesheet accused the Congress leader of alleged tax evasion and hawala transactions worth crores.

The IT department has accused Shivakumar and his associate S.K. Sharma of transporting huge amounts of unaccounted cash on a regular basis through ‘hawala’ channels with the help of three other accused.