The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has initiated a probe into the multi-crore Ludhiana City Centre scam, investigated by the Punjab vigilance bureau. Congress MP and former Punjab chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh, his son Raninder Singh, and son-in-law Raminder Singh are among the accused in the scam that allegedly took place during the 2002-07 tenure of Amarinder as CM.
The central investigating agency has registered an enforcement case information report, or ECIR (the agency’s term for FIR), and has also summoned some of the accused, though Amarinder says he has not been summoned. The ECIR, sources said, was registered under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) to look into the trail of the scam money.
The state VB had registered the FIR in March 2007, just after the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD)-BJP combine came to power. The bureau accused Amarinder of “patronising” and “abetting” dilution in several terms and conditions of the project in order to favour a Delhi-based private company, Today Homes, to execute his government’s dream project, the Ludhiana City Centre. It was alleged that the company derived benefits worth `1,144 crore following changes allowed by Amarinder and his team.
Former state Congress chief HS Hanspal, former local bodies minister Choudhary Jagjit Singh and the then chairman of the Ludhiana Improvement Trust, Wg Cdr (retd) Paramjit Singh Sibia, were also among the 19 persons named in the FIR. Jagjit and Sibia were expressly accused of receiving bribes for the concessions to Today Homes. The VB also booked the managing director (MD) of the company, GK Gambhir, along with his relatives and some other officials of the firm.
In December 2007, the VB filed a 130-page chargesheet before a Ludhiana court naming Amarinder and 35 others. However, charges are yet to be framed by the court. The VB listed 152 persons as witnesses.
Now, the FIR and chargesheet are part of the ECIR, and all those named by the vigilance bureau are under probe by the agency. Sources said ED’s investigations had started more than a year ago, while the ECIR was registered some months ago. Those summoned include some of the directors of the company.
When contacted, Amarinder said he had not received any summons from the ED. “The ED is free to probe any case which was registered by the VB. But I believe that the offences listed in the Ludhiana FIR were not listed as scheduled offences under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act at that time; so how can the ED take up this FIR for probe?” he said. “Moreover, both the Supreme Court and the high court have already held that the cases registered against me were a result of political vendetta.”