The economic offences wing (EOW) of Mumbai Police on Thursday disclosed that it had frozen bank accounts worth Rs. 1.1 crore and seized immovable assets worth Rs. 559 crore of the Laxmi Overseas Industries Limited (LOIL) group chaired by Punjab rice king Balbir Singh Uppal as part of its probe into the Rs. 5,600 crore commodities exchange scam.
“Their statements were recorded 15 days ago, and they have taken some time now to produce certain documents,” DIG (EOW), crime branch KEN Prasanna told HT on phone from Mumbai.
Balbir Uppal’s name, however, did not figure in the FIR the Mumbai Police registered in wake of the scam in October last.
Uppal told HT that he had joined the investigations, while maintaining that he had been assured “a stay order” from the Fatehgarh Sahib district court.
When asked what was the stay on, Uppal’s son Janak Raj Uppal, a director of the LOIL group, said, “Stay on any kind of proceedings against us in the scam, until the case of our claim for Rs. 155 crore on the NSEL is settled.”
“We (LOIL) have nothing to do with the scam; rather, the NSEL owes us Rs. 155 crore,” he said. The LOIL had floated three subsidiary firms — LOIL Continental Foods, LOIL Health Foods and LOIL Overseas Foods — to enter the NSEL online trading two years ago along with several other firms, of which 17 are now enlisted as defaulters, owing crores to the NSEL investors.
Other defaulters from the northern region included Ludhiana-based ARK Imports, Chandigarh-based White Water Foods, Sirsa-based Namdhari Group, Karnal-based PD Agroprocessors and Panchkula based Yathuri Associates.
The LOIL group is also embroiled in arbitrations and litigations, confronting the Punjab food agencies’ claims of Rs. 148 crore over the company in lieu of the paddy allotted to it till the kharif season 2009-10.
In 2011, the Punjab food supplies department had blacklisted LOIL for not paying the huge sums to different agencies, Markfed, Pungrain, Punsup, Punjab Warehouse Corporation and Punjab Agro.
But Janak Raj said the group did not owe any money to these state agencies as, he argued, the said litigations and arbitrations were a fallout of follies committed by state officials.
Senior officials, who refused to come on record, cited “political connections” of Uppals for the “heavy and out-of-turn” allotment of paddy for milling till 2010.
In 2011, then Fatehgarh Sahib district food and supplies controller Harjinder Mokha was chargesheeted on charges of allotting paddy to the defaulting LOIL. But he was promoted as deputy director in a year and a half.
While then director, food supplies, Alaknanda Dayal, had chargesheeted Mokha and blacklisted the firm, it was during the tenure of her successors Gurbaksh Nanda and Harkesh Singh Sidhu that Mokha was exonerated.