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As ED seizes Rs 10 crore, Channi says raids on nephew ‘vendetta’ for Modi security breach

ED says it has seized Rs 10 crore from Channi’s nephew Bhupinder ‘Honey’ Singh and associates in raids related to an illegal sand mining case dating back to 2018.

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File photo of Punjab CM Charanjit Singh Channi | ANI photo
File photo of Punjab CM Charanjit Singh Channi | ANI photo

Chandigarh: Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi alleged Wednesday that a “political vendetta” ahead of polls is behind the raids conducted this week by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on several official and residential premises of his nephew Bhupinder ‘Honey’ Singh.

The federal financial investigation agency has so far said it has recovered about Rs 10 crore in cash along with gold and other valuables during the raids, which were carried out in connection to an illegal sand mining case allegedly involving Bhupinder Singh and his associates Kudratdeep Singh and Sandeep Kumar.

The case was registered by the Punjab Police in March 2018 against quarry-owner Kudratdeep Singh (and others) under sections of the Mining Act and several sections of the Indian Penal Code, including cheating and forgery. Bhupinder Singh was not named in this FIR.

Based on this, the ED lodged an Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR; the ED’s equivalent of an FIR) in 2019. Following a probe, the federal agency conducted raids this week on properties belonging to Bhupinder Singh, Kudratdeep Singh, and Sandeep Kumar.

However, the Congress government in Punjab has alleged that the entire exercise has been orchestrated by the BJP government at the Centre.

Addressing a press conference Wednesday evening, Channi said the raids were conducted to both discredit the state government ahead of the February 2022 polls, and to retaliate against the security breach in Ferozepur during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit earlier this month.

“Ever since Modi’s visit for the rally, the central agencies have been put behind us. They (ED) said they are following everyone closely for two months and our phones are tapped,” Channi said.

He further alleged that the ED officers even mentioned Modi’s visit to Ferozepur during their raid. “They said they will not allow Punjab Congress candidates to file their nomination papers or participate in elections,” the CM claimed. When asked which member of the raiding team had said this, Channi said he had no direct proof.

Regarding the recovery of Rs 10 crore from the raided properties belonging to his nephew Bhupinder Singh and others, Channi said they should be punished if they were found guilty, but again alleged that the raid itself was suspect.

“When we come to power, we will also hold an inquiry into how the entire raid came about. Look at the timing of the raid. The FIR on the basis of which the raid has been carried out was lodged in 2018 and his name (nephew’s) also does not feature in it,” Channi said.

When the illegal mining case came to light in 2018, the then leader of opposition Sukhpal Khaira had directly accused both Channi and Bhupinder Singh of being involved. Channi had denied these allegations.

When asked why state Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu had not spoken out in defence of Bhupinder ‘Honey’ Singh, Channi was visibly irritated. “Talk about me and not about others,” he said.


Also Read: Home of Punjab CM Channi’s nephew among 10 sites raided by ED in 2018 sand mining case


Who is Bhupinder ‘Honey’ Singh and what have raids found?

Bhupinder Singh is the son of Channi’s wife’s sister. He is the director of an immigration company, Providers Overseas Consultants Private Limited, which was formed in October 2018. Kudratdeep Singh and Sandeep Kumar are the other two directors in this company.

According to company records available on the website of the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, Providers Overseas Consultants runs from addresses in Sector 70 Mohali and Sector 44 Chandigarh. The authorised capital of the company is Rs 5 lakh and the paid-up capital is Rs 60,000.

Sources in the ED told ThePrint that the federal agency was looking at the possibility that this company was used to launder money made through illegal mining operations.

The ED has carried out search operations at the business and residential premises of Kudratdeep Singh; Providers Overseas Consultants Pvt Ltd and its other directors/shareholders, including Bhupinder Singh and Sandeep Kumar at Mohali, Ludhiana, Rupnagar, Fatehgarh Sahib and Pathankot; and Pinjore Royalty Company and its partners/shareholders Kanwarmahip Singh and Manpreet Singh; and three others identified as Sunil Kumar Joshi, Jagveer Inder Singh, and Randeep Singh.

During the raids, the ED said it recovered various incriminating documents related to the sand mining business, property transactions, mobile phones, Indian currency worth more than Rs 10 crore, gold worth above Rs 21 lakh, and a Rolex watch worth Rs 12 lakh.

Amarinder spotted ‘illegal mining’ in 2018 

The ED started its money laundering investigation on the basis of an FIR registered at Rahon police station in Punjab’s Shaheed Bhagat Singh (SBS) Nagar, under several sections, including 379 (theft), 420 (cheating), 465/467/468/471 (forgery), of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), and under the Mines and Minerals (Regulation of Development) Act, 1957.

The police lodged the FIR in 2018 after the then Congress chief minister Amarinder Singh spotted what looked like illegal mining in the area while he was travelling to Kartarpur in his chopper on 6 March that year.

He tweeted the information with pictures from his chopper and asked the deputy commissioner and the SSP to investigate the mining sites. The FIR was lodged the next day.

 

The plot thickened a fortnight after the FIR was lodged when Bholath MLA Sukhpal Singh Khaira, who was then the leader of opposition of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in the Punjab assembly, directly accused Channi, who was then a minister in Amarinder Singh’s cabinet.

Khaira alleged that Channi had procured a mining site in SBS Nagar through Bhupinder Singh and Kudratdeep. Channi had denied these allegations.

The March 2018 FIR mentioned that a team comprising officials of the mining, civil administration, and police departments conducted a surprise check on a suspected site of illegal mining on 7 March 2018 on the basis of the complaint received at the Rahon police station.

The team found that excavation machines were at work and mining was being carried out beyond the designated area. Consequently, several tippers/trucks and other heavy equipment were seized by the authorities.

The seized tipper/trucks were found to be overloaded with sand and the weighment slips allegedly bore “official” stamps that were actually forged. Subsequently, the operation at the Malikpur mining site was stopped. This site was being quarried by Kudratdeep Singh.

According to the FIR, other than Malikpur, illegal mining activities were carried out in Burjtahl Das, Barsal, Lalewal, Mandala, and Khosa.

(Edited by Asavari Singh)


Also Read: PM Modi’s security failed in Punjab. Waste no time on conspiracies, it’s colossal incompetence


 

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