Punjab jails minister and senior Akali leader Sarwan Singh Phillaur’s son Damanvir Singh’s name cropped up for the first time in the Jagdish Bhola drug racket in February during the latter’s interrogation by the Enforcement Directorate (ED).
As per Bhola’s disclosure to the central agency, Damanvir was involved in the drug trade and had introduced Delhi-based smuggler Varinder Raja to Chunni Lal Gaba, a businessman who owns a cold store in Goraya and a drug unit in Baddi (Himachal Pradesh).
On February 23, Damanvir was summoned by the ED to appear for interrogation by February 28. The family was served a notice, but Damanvir left for Dubai.
The ED later sent two notices summoning Damanvir to appear in the agency’s Jalandhar or Chandigarh office for questioning, but he never turned up.
The Phillaur family’s links with Gaba had come to light on February 18 when he (Phillaur) had allegedly tried to stall an income tax (IT) raid on the latter’s cold store.
The minister and five-time MLA had told the media that Gaba was his close family friend but the families didn’t share any business ties.
Sources said a diary recovered from Gaba’s office by I-T department sleuths and accessed by the Punjab Police — believed to be having details of money handed out to politicians and police officers by him — had become a major piece of evidence against Damanvir.
Damanvir, a 34-year-old postgraduate, is the general secretary of the Youth Akali Dal (YAD).
Sources said he dealt in the sale of controversial properties in Kartarpur, from where Phillaur is the MLA , and had links in the business of illegal sand mining in areas adjacent to the Sutlej river of Phillaur segment, earlier represented by his father.
Recently, Damanvir had invested money in producing a Punjabi film, his close aide disclosed. A senior Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) functionary said Damanvir’s autocratic functioning was the biggest reason why the party had trailed behind the Congress by a margin of 12,599 votes from the Kartarpur segment in the recent Lok Sabha polls.
During electioneering, his father had to flee from various villages in the segment in view of public anger against him while he was canvassing for the party candidate from Jalandhar, Pawan Kumar Tinu.
Damanvirhas also been accused by local SAD leaders of misusing police powers against them and getting false cases registered.