New Delhi: A portion of a nine-storey building in Mumbai’s posh Bandra area, valued Rs 16.38 crore, has been attached by the Enforcement Directorate in connection with its money-laundering probe against the Congress-party promoted Associated Journals Limited (AJL).
The agency said it has issued a provisional order, under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, to freeze “part” of the asset and has issued notices to AJL and its CMD and veteran Congress leader Moti Lal Vora.
AJL is controlled by senior Congress leaders, including members of the Gandhi family. The group runs the National Herald newspaper.
The nine-floor building has two basements and a total built-up area of 15,000 sq metres, it said, with its total value estimated to be Rs 120 crore.
According to the ED, the property was purchased after taking a loan fraudulenty from Delhi’s Syndicate Bank.
The loan, ED said, was secured by mortgaging a Panchkula property — already attached under a separate investigation — that was allotted to AJL in 1982.
“This Panchkula property, securing which a loan was obtained to purchase the Bandra property, was provisionally attached in a case of money laundering,” an ED officer said.
“Since this Panchkula property which is a ‘proceeds of crime’ was used to obtain loans to buy the Bandra property, and because the Bandra asset, germinated out of proceeds of crime, it has been attached,” he added.
“The attachment order was issued against the Associated Journals Limited & Moti Lal Vora, Chairman-Cum-Managing Director of the Associated Journals Limited,” the officer said.
ThePrint reached lawyers for AJL Kapil Sibal and Abhishek Manu Singhvi, all senior Congress leaders, through text messages for a comment but there was no response until the time of publishing this report.
The Panchkula property and AJL case
ED had initiated an investigation into the Panchkula property after a case was filed by the CBI and the Haryana police disclosing that a plot in Sector 6, Panchkula was fraudulently allotted to AJL in 1982.
The plot, ED said, was “resumed” by the Estate Officer, HUDA in 1992 as AJL did not comply with the conditions of the allotment letter.
In 2005, Bhupinder Singh Hooda, the then CM of Haryana and also chairman of HUDA, however, allegedly misused his official position and allotted the plot afresh in the guise of re-allotment to the AJL at original rates plus interest, which was done in violation of HUDA conditions and policy, ED claimed.
The ED said that Hooda also did not adhere with the legal opinion and recommendations of HUDA Officers.
“There was a wrongful loss to HUDA and wrongful gain to AJL,” the officer said.
“Bhupinder Singh Hooda further favoured AJL by granting them three undue extensions for construction of plot from 1 May 2008 to 10 May 2012 until the AJL completed the construction in the year 2014,” he added.
Connection between Panchkula and Bandra properties
According to ED, earlier, their investigations revealed that senior Congress leader Moti Lal Vora and Hooda had illegally possessed the Panchkula property, which was “crime proceeds” and was provisionally attached by the adjudicating authority under PMLA.
“The accused not only illegally possessed that Panchkula property but also illegally mortgaged it for availing loans from Syndicate Bank in Delhi,” the officer said. “Since this Mumbai asset germinated from a property which is proceeds of crime, it has been attached. Further investigation is on,” he said.