The enforcement directorate (ED) noose has tightened around chief parliamentary secretary (CPS) Avinash Chander in the money laundering and (youth Akali leader) Gurmail Singh Bhola drug haul case, putting him in choppier political waters.
Pressure is mounting on the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) to ask the Phillaur legislator to step down. A day after questioning the CPS, the ED had on Tuesday raided the shop of his key aide Chatinder Goyal “Seeta Arhtiya” in the Phillaur grain market.
Goyal runs a foreign exchange company that the ED says is involved in multi-crore rupee-hawala transactions. The raid on him was under the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA). In the crackdown, the directorate claims to have seized more than `10-lakh cash and hawala-transaction documents pointing to people in the inner circle of the CPS.
Goyal, member of the market committee of Phillaur from the Akali quota and president of the town’s arhhitya (commission agent) association, is known to have done fundraising for the CPS; and the ED suspects his job is to convert black money into white.
The raid on him was based on a lead gathered from some documents that Chander had furnished in the five-hour interrogation here on Monday. On Wednesday as well, the ED summoned money exchanger Goyal to its Jalandhar office for more than four hours of questioning. He is the third key CPS man after Gurmail Singh Bhola and Manjeet Singh Billa whose name has come up in the investigations.
The Jalandhar police had interrogated Bhola, while Billa is locked up since the police claimed to have seized drug power from him in June. The ED is also likely to summon Youth Akali Dal (YAD) state vice-president Bhola in the case within a few days. It is said that he had given the Jalandhar police a written admission of having made huge money in illegal sand mining in the Satluj riverbed around Phillaur.
Bhola, most trusted partner of the CPS, owns heavy trucks and other digging machinery; and he enjoyed completed freedom at the local administrative level to carry out illegal mining. Since the Jalandhar police detained him, he has avoided being seen with the CPS and preferred to remain in England.
Since Bhola and Goyal had close personal and business relations with Gurmesh Gaba, son of Goraya businessman Chunni Lal Gaba, whose drug diary seized on February 18 had rocked Punjab politics, further ED investigation could spell more trouble for Chander.