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Delhi liquor ‘scam’: Kavitha threatened Reddy to pay money to AAP, CBI tells court

New Delhi: The CBI has told a special court in New Delhi that Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) leader K Kavitha had allegedly ‘threatened’ Aurobindo Pharma promoter Sharath Chandra Reddy to pay an amount of Rs 25 crore to the AAP for the five retail zones allotted to his firm under the Delhi government’s excise policy. According to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Kavitha had told Reddy that in case he did not pay the amount to the ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in the national capital, his business would be harmed in Telangana and Delhi. Reddy, who was an accused in a money-laundering case linked to the alleged liquor scam in Delhi, had turned an approver in the case that is being probed by the Enforcement Directorate (ED). The CBI has yet to file a chargesheet against him. Seeking the BRS leader’s custodial interrogation, the CBI told Special Judge Kaveri Baweja that it was at the “insistence and assurance” of Kavitha, the daughter of former Telangana chief minister K Chandrashekar Rao, that Reddy got involved in the liquor business in Delhi. Kavitha had allegedly assured Reddy that she had contacts in the Delhi government and that she would help him in the liquor business in the national capital under the now-scrapped excise policy. “Kavitha further told Sharath Chandra Reddy that the payments of upfront money of Rs 25 crore for wholesale business and Rs 5 crore for each retail zone were to be made to the Aam Aadmi Party for getting liquor business and the same was to be paid to her associates, Arun R Pillai and Abhishek Boinpally, who would in turn coordinate with Vijay Nair, who was a representative of (Delhi Chief Minister) Arvind Kejriwal,” the CBI told the court on Friday. The court has sent Kavitha to the CBI’s custody till April 15. According to the agency, in March and May 2021, when the excise policy was being formulated, Pillai, Boinpally and Butchibabu Gorantla stayed at the Hotel Oberoi in Delhi to swing the policy in their favour through Nair by inserting provisions. After receiving the assurance of support from Kavitha, Aurobindo Reality and Infrastructure Private Limited paid Rs 80 lakh to her NGO, Telangana Jagruthi, under Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in March 2021, the CBI has alleged. “The investigation has further revealed that in June-July 2021, K Kavitha had compelled Sharath Chandra Reddy to enter into a sale agreement with her for an agricultural land situated at Mahboob Nagar, Telangana, although he was not keen to purchase the said agricultural land and also not aware of the value of the said land,” it has said. Kavitha “insisted” that Reddy pay Rs 14 crore against the land and “forced” him to enter into the sale agreement through Mahira Ventures Private Limited, one of the Aurobindo Group companies, in July 2021, the CBI has told the court, citing Reddy’s statement and its investigation so far. It said the total payment of Rs 14 crore was made to Kavitha through bank transactions — Rs 7 crore in July 2021 and another Rs 7 crore in mid-November 2021. The agency has alleged that in November and December of 2021, Kavitha asked Reddy to pay Rs 25 crore (Rs 5 crore per zone for the five retail zones allotted to him). The BRS leader had claimed that she herself had paid Rs 100 crore as upfront money on Reddy’s behalf to the AAP through Nair for getting favourable provisions in the excise policy. “However, when Sarath Chandra Reddy showed his reluctance to pay the demanded money, K Kavitha threatened Sarath Chandra Reddy to harm his business in Telangana and Delhi under the excise policy,” the agency has alleged, citing Reddy’s statement. The AAP alleged March 24 that Reddy’s company had given Rs 59.5 crore to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) through electoral bonds. “The companies owned by Sarath Reddy bought electoral bonds and donated money to the BJP. Now, this money trail has been exposed in front of the country. Reddy purchased electoral bonds worth Rs 4.5 crore while the excise policy was being formulated and after his arrest, he purchased electoral bonds worth Rs 55 crore and the money went to the BJP. So the money trail that has been sought for the past two years is here,” Delhi minister Atishi had alleged. PTI

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Free passes sink Jordan Wicks’ start as Cubs lose 4-2 to Mariners to open series

SEATTLE – Cubs lefty Jordan Wicks is getting swing-and miss, especially on his changeup and slider. But he has yet to make it deep into a game this season. “A lot of the stuff that we worked on coming into the season, and as far as the four-steam and the breaking balls and stuff like that –all that stuff is great,” Wicks said after the Cubs’ 4-2 loss to the Mariners on Friday. “But we can’t still forget who I am and forget what makes me really good. And I feel like a little bit of that we’ve gotten away from, and we’ve kind of seen the consequences.” Free passes sunk Wicks’ third start of the season and lifted his pitch count. The Mariners scored all their runs against Wicks, who pitched four innings, tied a career high with four walks and hit a batter for the first time in his young major-league career. The Cubs dropped to a 1-3 record on this West Coast road trip. “Essentially the game boiled down to a couple of chances where he was ahead in the count, and ended up in two walks and a hit by pitch,” manager Craig Counsell said after the game. The first of those instances came in the second inning. Wicks had loaded the bases with no outs, but then he struck out Cal Raleigh and induced Dylan Moore to fly out. Luis Urías was up next, and Wicks got to a 1-2 count against him. Urías fouled off four straight pitches, batting to keep the at-bat alive. Then Wicks hit him with a slider, pushing the first run of the game across the plate. Wicks got out of the inning without any more damage. “He should take that in as a positive because he was able to eliminate a big inning,” veteran catcher Yan Gomes said. “But at the same time, we were getting behind a lot of guys, we were using a lot of pitches that we didn’t need to – and I mean nipping at the zone, not pitch selection.” Look at how Moore’s walk in the fourth inning played out. Wicks had already walked Mitch Garver to lead off the inning, that time falling behind in the count early. So, there was a runner on first with one out. Wicks threw back-to-back fastballs at the top of the zone and got Moore to foul them off. Up 0-2, Wicks buried a changeup in the dirt – a fine attempt to get Moore to chase, but no luck. Then Wicks threw three more low changeups in a row to walk Moore. Then again, facing J.P. Crawford with two outs, Wicks got to an 0-2 count. He threw a fastball up and out of the zone and a slider in the dirt to make it 2-2. He ventured back in the strike zone with a low fastball on the outer third, but Crawford fouled off that pitch. Then Wicks threw a slider and fastball outside to walk Crawford. “The walks are the ones that really drive me nuts,” Wicks said. “I feel like we’ve got way too good of a defense for me to let people on via walk. I feel like I’ve got to allow our team to work behind me as well. We’ve got at least four Gold Glovers behind me; I’ve got to let them do their job.” The walks extended the inning and put runners on base for Julio Rodríguez and Ty France to drive in for a three-run inning. “He’s got a lot of talent,” Gomes said. “He’s definitely got a pretty good arsenal that he can just attack the zone [with] even more. And sometimes when the strikeouts aren’t coming as easy, we can just go get an early out. But at the same time, he does have strikeout stuff.”

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Biden hails work to reduce racial wealth gap as he seeks voter support

WASHINGTON: US President Joe Biden hailed his administration’s efforts to close the racial wealth gap, one of the country’s most persistent inequalities, in a speech to Reverend Al Sharpton’s racial justice conference in New York on Friday. Biden, who is working to shore up support among Black voters ahead of his November rematch with former President Donald Trump, contrasted his policies with Republican efforts to cut funding for racial equity initiatives, state-provided health insurance, and social security. “Black wealth is up 60% … and the racial wealth gap has closed the most in 20 years. You know, I would argue this is transformational change. But we know there’s much more work to do,” Biden told participants in a virtual speech. He said Black Americans and other communities of color were particularly impacted by threats such as voter suppression, election subversion, moves to reverse reproductive rights, and political violence. “There are more extreme voices out there who simply don’t want to see people of color in the future of our country,” he said. “These extremists are determined to erase the progress we’ve made. But together, we are determined to make history, not erase it.” New data from the Federal Housing Finance Agency shows a 40% cut in the gap between home appraisals in majority white communities versus those in communities of color after the agency started to crack down on what it calls appraisal bias, the White House said. Home appraisals are just one factor in a wealth gap that has persisted for years, fed by federal and local policies on everything from hiring practices to highway construction. Some data shows it is getting worse, despite Biden’s efforts. Inflation-adjusted wealth of white households in the US grew faster than that of Black and Hispanic households from the start of 2019 through the third quarter of last year, with Black households in particular worse off than they were before the pandemic, a New York Fed study released in February concluded. Biden won the 2020 election with 92% backing from Black Americans, but their support is less certain this year, with a Pew Research Center poll in January finding about 49% of Black adults disapproved of Biden’s performance. Biden also announced that a record $76.2 billion, or 12.1%, of federal contracting dollars went to small disadvantaged businesses in fiscal 2023, close to his goal of reaching 15% of such contracts by 2025. White House economists say eliminating disparities in business ownership rates would narrow the racial wealth gap.

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Rahul, Langer’s backing motivated me: LSG batter Badoni

Lucknow: Young Lucknow Super Giants batter Ayush Badoni credited skipper KL Rahul and coach Justin Langer for keeping faith in him despite his disappointing run early in the ongoing IPL season, saying their support helped him perform against the Delhi Capitals, albeit in a losing cause. The 24-year-old Badoni struck an unbeaten 55 off 35 balls to help resurrect LSG’s innings and post a competitive 167 for 7, a target which the Delhi Capitals achieved in 18.1 overs here Friday. “The start of the season was not good but I was doing well at the nets. So I am thankful to KL Rahul and Justin Langer for backing me and giving me chance,” Badoni said at the post-match press conference. “While I was batting I was just thinking of taking the game deep and then attack because if we bat till 20 overs we can score 150 plus. I think we were 20 runs short. “I was quite motivated because I was batting well at the nets so I was just backing myself, I was just waiting for the knock which came today.” Badoni said he shares a good bonding with both the skipper and coach and that has helped him in improving his game. “I spoke a lot to KL Rahul and he backs me everytime. He tells me you are best player and you can finish well. I also share a good bonding with Justin. I went to Australia last year and there also he made learn a few things and improved my game,” he said. “I went to Australia in September last which was facilitated by LSG where we had a training camp with Justin for 10 days and that helped me a lot.” Badoni said DC spinner Kuldeep Yadav (3/20) turned out to be match-winner. “Kuldeep was bowling well. He broke our momentum,” he said. DC assistant coach Pravin Amre believes Jake Fraser-McGurk’s whirlwind knock in his debut IPL appearance helped the team to chase down the target easily as he grabbed his opportunity with both hands. The 22-year-old Australian struck a belligerent 55 off 35 deliveries which included five massive sixes. “It was tremendous innings by Jack because he was batting very well at the nets. We have got that he has that X-factor, the ability to strike the sixes and he also got five sixes. That’s was this format is all about and we were doing well in the last 2 games but we were not crossing the line. “So we wanted some impact on the game. We have talent but it’s important to deliver and I think Jack has got that talent and he can be dangerous in this format,” he said. “Jack got the opportunity today and he grabbed it with both hands. It is important for a good talent to perform on the ground because there is vast difference is performing at the nets and in a match.” Amre also credited Prithvi Shaw (32 off 22) for giving them a good start. “As an opener he (Shaw) has got a role to play, winning the powerplay is also critical. As a a coaching staff we want him to play at least 30 balls because if he plays 30 balls we have more chance to win. “In 22 balls he got 32 and that was also important because we were chasing and his experienced partner (David) Warner got out and that also allowed Jack to settle down. But he being more consistent is good for him as well for the team also.” Amre also lauded spinners Kuldeep and Axar Patel, who dominated in the crucial middle overs. “We are forgetting Kuldeep’s contribution. He bowled a dream ball to dismiss Nicholas Pooran. Axar also bowled well in the middle overs giving away just 25 runs off his 4 overs. We took the control of the game after powerplay and all credit goes to our spin department.”

Easter getaways hit by travel disruption

Britons embarking on their Easter getaways are experiencing travel disruption, with high winds and heavy rain fuelling delays.
A record number of travellers are expected to make journeys by air over… [+5550 chars]

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