The Punjab Vigilance Bureau (VB) on Wednesday registered a case against Vikramjit Singh Chimni, sacked chief executive officer (CEO) of four government-funded farm councils, for "irregular diversion" of Rs 4 crore.
Chimni, CEO, Viticulture Council of Punjab (VCOP), has been accused of diverting the money to the Punjab Council for Citrus and Agri-Juicing (CCAJ) for paying off land lease overdue to farmers without obtaining necessary approval from the competent authority.
Stating this here on Wednesday, Suresh Arora, chief director-cum-DGP, VB, Punjab, said a criminal case had been registered at the VB police station, flying squad-I, SAS Nagar, under section 409 (criminal breach of trust) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and sections 13(1) (d) R/W and 13(2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act.
He said the project approval board of the state government, at its meeting held on November 27, 2006, approved the proposal of setting up the grape-based winery project in the state and decided that a smaller unit with a total capital cost of Rs 4 crore be set up to process grape production. He added that initially money was to be invested by the Punjab Agro Industries Corporation Limited (PAICL) since the VCOP had applied for a grant under the National Horticulture Mission (NHM).
"It was decided that if the grant amount was received from the NHM, it would be paid back to the PAIC or otherwise, a new company be registered and shares equivalent to the investment made by the PAIC would be allotted," he said.
The VB chief added that on the basis of this approval, the PAIC released the entire amount of Rs 4 crore on February 12, 2007, as advance to the VCOP for setting up a grape-based winery project at Talwandi Sabo. But later, in August 2010, the VCOP transferred the total fund to the state Citrus Council for paying off land lease overdue to farmers without obtaining necessary approval from the project approval board, a competent authority.
He said the state government, after examining irregular diversion of Rs 4 crore, sent the case to the VB for registration of a criminal case against then CEO (same person for VCOP and CCAJ) and other functionaries involved in this decision for criminal breach of trust and misuse of official position. After finding out the veracity of facts on record, the VB registered the case, which is under further investigation.
Chimni spent six months in jail in another citrus case and is on bail these days.
The rip-off is under the scanner of various agencies after Hindustan Times exposed it in March 2010 and subsequently published a series of reports highlighting pilferage, forgeries, fake bills and unlawful expenditure by hand-picked officials at the helm of the project.
Following the HT expose in 2011, the Punjab Police had arrested more than a dozen people, including Chimni.