In a major breakthrough, the vigilance bureau arrested Sarabdyal Singh, the on-the-run PA of former Punjab animal husbandry minister Gulzar Singh Ranike, from a hotel in Jeolikot near Nainital in the wee hours of Saturday.
In another raid late on Friday night, a VB team arrested his brother-in-law Harjit Singh from Bilaspur in Uttarakhand.
They were absconding ever since HT exposed their involvement in the border area funds scam.
Confirming the arrests, SSP (vigilance), Amritsar, Opinderjit Singh Ghuman, told HT, “After getting specific information about Sarabdyal’s presence in Nainital, a VB team was dispatched to the hotel. The two are likely to be brought here late in the evening.”
He said that though no recoveries were made from them, the arrests were likely to help the VB in getting vital details pertaining to the scam.
Responding to the arrests, Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, who was in Bhikhiwind to address a rally, told mediapersons that his government was serious about bringing the culprits to book.
Earlier, the VB had conducted several raids to nab Sarabdyal. It had even conducted searches at his and his brother-in-law’s houses in Amritsar, which led to the recovery of various cheques issued in the name of gram panchayats, apart from fake stamps.
The police had even issued a lookout circular for Sarabdyal and the VB had initiated the proceedings to declare him a proclaimed offender.
Sarabdyal, considered Ranike’s “blue-eyed boy”, was named in an FIR pertaining to embezzlement of Border Area Development Programme (BADP) funds in May 2011. He was also booked for allegedly embezzling funds to the tune of Rs 1.15 crore from the discretionary quota of Ranike, who represents Attari constituency.
As per the VB, Sarabdyal, in connivance with some persons and bank officials, first received the grant cheques from the district administration and later withdrew the money from fake accounts.
A few days ago, the VB had arrested five persons, whose disclosures pointed towards Sarabdyal’s involvement in misappropriation of funds in the name of a sports club.
The VB has already submitted a challan in court with regard to embezzlement of BADP funds to the tune of Rs 74 lakh. But it gave a clean chit to Ranike in the same challan.
Ranike was made to resign from the cabinet after HT exposed the scam.