New Delhi/Bengaluru: In a move that has sent shockwaves across the Congress which was already screaming “vendetta politics” after the arrest of its high profile senior leader P. Chidambaram, another senior Congress leader and Karnataka’s rising star D.K. Shivakumar was arrested on Tuesday by the Enforcement Directorate (ED).
It had summoned the Vokkaliga strongman to Delhi last week for questioning. Within hours of his arrest, his home base of Ramanagara has declared a bandh, while the Congress as well as the Janata Dal (S) has expressed its outrage.
The ED is expected to seek custody of him for eight days for further interrogation on the grounds that he has not been cooperating with the investigation.
The agency, which is inquiring into the Rs 8.59 crore recovered from Mr Shivakumar's New Delhi flat, his alleged role in some hawala transactions and alleged disproportionate assets ,gave no clue of an imminent arrest during the last four days that it has been questioning him.
Sources said: "The ED sleuths decided to arrest D K Shivakumar when he failed to satisfactorily reply to the questions put before him during the interrogation. He was giving conflicting versions during questioning". Mr. Shivakumar appeared before the agency for the fourth time for questioning on Tuesday. He was arrested under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), they added. Shivakumar will be produced before a local court here on Wednesday by the ED for seeking his custody, sources said. Shivakumar for the first time appeared before the agency after the Karnataka High Court on Thursday dismissed his petition challenging the summons issued to him by the ED.
The ED had in September last year registered a money laundering case against Shivakumar and others. The ED case was filed on the basis of a charge sheet (prosecution complaint) filed by the Income-Tax Department against him last year before a special court in Bengaluru on charges of alleged tax evasion and hawala transactions worth crores of rupees.
Shivakumar has repeatedly indicated that his instrumental role in ensuring the safe stay of Gujarat Congress MLAs in a Karnataka resort during the Rajya Sabha polls in 2017, amid allegations that the BJP was trying to poach them, was the reason for the Income Tax searches and subsequent ED action of the central agencies against him.
On Tuesday afternoon, officials did not give the former minister a lunch break despite the lunch from his brother, D K Suresh's house, being delivered inside its office. By evening, the Delhi police began standing guard around the ED office and at around 8 pm, Mr Suresh was summoned inside and informed that Mr Shivakumar had been taken into custody.
The agency shut its doors thereafter and the Delhi police beefed up security around it as over 50 restive supporters of the Karnataka leader were present at the spot.
At around 9 pm, as its officials took Mr Shivakumar for a medical check- up, his angry supporters surrounded the car he was in and began banging on it. The Congress leader emerged from the car to pacify them before leaving with the ED officials.
During the last four days, the agency has grilled Mr Shivakumar for around 29 hours and it interrogated him for another eight hours from 12 noon on Tuesday. On Monday, the former minister had turned emotional
while accusing the Central agency of denying him permission to return home to perform traditional rituals for his forefathers on the eve of the Ganesha festival. He told the media in Delhi that he was cooperating with the investigation and was ready for an even month-long inquiry.
While most parts of Karnataka perform rituals for their forefathers during Mahalaya Amavasya, some communities perform them during the Ganesha festival. As both Mr Shivakumar and his younger brother, Suresh were in New Delhi, it was left to the Congress leader's wife, Usha, son, Akash and daughter, Aishwarya, , besides his mother, Gowramma to perform them at the graves of their forefathers.