Former minister Gulzar Singh Ranike's jailed aide Sarabdyal Singh has denied having any role in the embezzlement of rural area funds and border development grants in Ranike's constituency Attari, and claimed to have been "made a scapegoat for political reasons". As per Sarabdyal's lawyer who met him in police custody here on Wednesday, Sarabdyal, who served Ranike as personal assistant, claimed that Ranike was innocent too.
Ranike had to resign from the state cabinet after HT reported pocketing of grants via bogus bank accounts opened in the names of beneficiaries.
Sarabdyal's lawyer Ajay Vermani, who met his client at the vigilance bureau office after the court permitted an hour-long meeting everyday, told HT, "When I asked Sarabdyal why he was being made a scapegoat, he said it was because he had supported an independent candidate in the recent Vidhan Sabha polls in Tarn Taran constituency, and certain Akali leaders had seen him when he accompanied the candidate for filing nomination papers."
"Whatever Sarabdyal told me was in front of the VB officials, and he also said that there was no role of former minister Ranike in the entire scam," said Vermani.
The alleged modus operandi of the scam was that Sarabdyal would collect grant cheques from the block development offices using Ranike's name, and then embezzle the money via bogus bank accounts. But Sarabdyal told his lawyer that he had not received any cheque, nor did he identify anyone at the banks where the bogus accounts were opened.
Sarabdyal, who was on the run ever since HT first reported the scam, was nabbed by the VB from Nainital on October 20. Both Sarabdyal and his brother-in-law Harjit Singh are in police custody till October 26.
The scam pertains to embezzlement of over Rs 74 lakh of the Border Area Development Programme (BADP) grants, besides lakhs in discretionary grants issued by Ranike.