Despite having “clinching” statements to summon Punjab revenue minister Bikram Singh Majithia for questioning in the multi-crore drug smuggling case, the Enforcement Directorate is dragging its feet for more than two months, reliable sources in the investigating agency said. The ED, which falls under the union finance ministry, is interrogating those involved in the international racket which was busted with the arrest of Anoop Singh Kahlon, an NRI, by the Fatehgarh Sahib police in March 2013.
It had led to the arrest of alleged kingpin Jagdish Bhola, a dismissed DSP of the Punjab Police, in November last year. Based on Bhola’s revelations, Amritsar businessman Bittu Aulakh and Jagjit Singh Chahal, who owns pharma companies, were also arrested. While Bhola and Bittu Aulakh are in jail, Chahal was granted a regular bail in March this year.
All three accused -- Bhola, Bittu and Chahal -- and Bittu’s father Master Partap Singh have been interrogated and their statements recorded by the ED under Section 50 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act are admissible in the court as evidence.
According to ED sources, Chahal and Bittu’s father, in their statements, have revealed that the minister knew Canada-based drug dealers, Satpreet Satta and Parbinder Singh alias Pindi.
“Chahal, in his statement, has said that Satta was provided two gunmen and an Innova car and a driver by Majithia during his stay in India. He has also corroborated Bhola’s statement that Satta and Pindi were present at Majithia’s marriage,” ED sources said.
Chahal owns pharma companies which were allegedly manufacturing precursor chemicals —ephedrine and pseudoephedrine — which were being diverted illegally for the production of synthetic drug ICE.
‘My son knew Satta’
Bittu’s father, a retired schoolteacher, in his statement, has said that his son was close to Majithia and Ajnala MLA Amarpal Singh Ajnala and the three were often together. “He has also said that Bittu knew Satta and so did Majithia,” ED sources added. When contacted, Chahal refused to give any details on what he told ED. Asked if he had revealed Majithia’s links with Satta and Pindi, he said, “The whole world knows about it. But I have not made any statement to the ED. My association with Majithia was as much as anyone has with local leader.”
Master Partap Singh said his son had been “very close” to Majithia and Amarpal Ajnala. “He was Amarpal’s election agent in 2012. In these two years, Bittu was frequently with Majithia and Ajnala. Bittu knew Satta. Even I had met Satta once when he had come to Amritsar,” he said. On whether Majithia too knew Satta, he said, “The whole world knows about it. But my lips are sealed. They are influential people.”
He said his son knew Chahal as a tyre showroom owner in Amritsar. “Bittu is my only son. We are farmers with tractors and houses. His sisters are in the US and Canada and they had got our papers ready too. Leaders are making him a scapegoat. Patiala SSP Hardayal Singh Mann took away our vehicles. Find out from where my son was caught. The bail plea of my son is pending, while Chahal was granted bail. We are demanding a CBI probe,” Master Partap said.
The ED sources said they cannot submit a chargesheet in the court till they summon Majithia. “With statements of the accused and family linking Majithia to Satta and Pindi, we will be exposed in court for not having even summoned the minister for investigation,” they said.
The statements of Chahal and Bittu’s family before the ED also raise a question on the police investigation. Patiala SSP Hardayal Mann, who nabbed Bittu and Chahal, said: “We have placed the challan before the trial court and it would not be appropriate for me to speak. I do not, off-hand, remember what the duo told the police.”
Who are Pindi, Satta?
Arrested druglord Jagdish Bhola, in his 19-page statement, had allegedly told the ED that Bittu Aulakh and Jagjit Singh Chahal used to supply pseudoephedrine to Parbinder Singh alias Pindi in Canada.
He said once they had supplied inferior chemical and Pindi had asked for his `1.5 crore back.
Later, when Aulakh and Chahal refused to supply the chemical to Pindi and another Canada-based dealer Satpreet Singh Satta, they were allegedly forced to do so after Majithia’s intervening. He had told ED that Satta and Pindi had also attended Majithia’s wedding in November 2009.
Why is ED dithering?
The Enforcement Directorate is dithering on taking on the “high and mighty” due to the high stakes — it can deal the final blow to the precarious SAD-BJP alliance in Punjab. Fissures between the allies have been widening after the Lok Sabha elections with the saffron party blaming the “drug taint” on Akalis as one of the reasons for the alliance’s below-par poll performance. It will open yet another Pandora’s box — the involvement of drug money in Punjab politics. The opposition Congress is also a divided house, with state party chief Partap Singh Bajwa demanding a CBI probe and Capt Amarinder Singh, deputy leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha, supporting the Punjab Police probe.