The CBI finally booked Naresh Sheokand, former Panchkula district revenue officer and Bhim Singh, then senior manager of Punjab National Bank of Jangpura Extension in New Delhi, in the Rs 48-crore land compensation scam that surfaced in 2015. The FIR was registered for cheating, forgery and criminal conspiracy and the Prevention of Corruption Act. The first charge sheet in the case was filed by the vigilance bureau against Bhim Singh in 2016.
Hindustan Times was the first to report on (May 3, 2016) the unique modus operandi in the scam, followed by another report on (August 12, 2016) how the whistleblower in the scam was also under the scanner. According to the reports, land compensation was provided to 17 fake beneficiaries which was diverted into multiple accounts. The money was then reverted to original accounts without interest.
Last year, the Haryana vigilance bureau (VB) recommended the state government that the case be transferred to the CBI because the investigation covered Delhi, Haryana and Chandigarh.
STORY OF SCAM
According to the VB, in 2012, when Sheokand was posted as the Panchkula district revenue officer (DRO), the Haryana State Industrial and Infrastructure Development Corporation (HSIIDC) and the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) acquired land in the district. To disburse money to landowners, the HSIIDC opened an account with IndusInd Bank in Panchkula, and another with HDFC Bank in Barwala. These accounts, opened in the DRO’s name, contained ₹203.5 crore.
Sheokand, however, also opened an account with PNB’s Jangpura Extension branch in New Delhi on December 26, 2012. This account was in the name of Panchkula DRO-cum-LAC (land acquisition collector).
Five days later, Sheokand issued the first cheque seeking a transfer of Rs 20 crore from the IndusInd account to the PNB account in Jangpura Extension. The transfer was declined due to insufficiency of funds. However, he tried again by issuing a cheque of Rs 19 crore on January 5, 2013, this time.
Apart from these accounts, Sheokand had opened another account with PNB in Sector 8, Panchkula, on December 27, 2012. From the Rs 19 crore transferred to the PNB Jangpura branch, he transferred Rs 1 crore to this account and gave away the rest as ‘land compensation’, only that the beneficiaries were not real. At that time, the HSIIDC stood at a loss of Rs 18 crore.
HSIIDC COMPENSATED AT NHAI’s COST
The NHAI, which wanted to compensate landowners for the Panchkula-Yamunangar highway in 2012, had also opened a joint account in the name of DRO-cum-LAC (Sheokand) and the NHAI project director at the Sector-8 branch of PNB. This account contained more than Rs 500 crore - Rs 495 crore deposited on March 28, 2013, and Rs 6.58 crore on June 6, 2013. Now this is where Bhim Singh came in.
On March 30, 2013, Bhim Singh, without permission of the account holders and his superiors, transferred ₹250 crore to the PNB Jangpura branch, which Sheokand had opened. On the same day, ₹80 crore was transferred to some accounts in New Delhi and Chandigarh, and the rest was either converted into fixed deposit receipts (FDRs) or deposited in another account at the same branch.
The entire money, Rs 250 crore, was brought back in the original NHAI account (Sector-8 PNB), but without interest earned, causing losses to the highways body.
The two accused, however, made up for the loss (of Rs 18 crore) the HSIIDC had incurred. They got two FDRs worth Rs 22.09 crore transferred from the NHAI account to the HSIIDC account in the same branch on July 17, 2014.
Bhim Singh also transferred six FDRs from the Sector-8 PNB branch to various accounts opened in the name of the Panchkula DRO-cum-LAC without permission. Of these, two worth Rs 20 crore were encashed and given away to illegal beneficiaries, causing more loss to NHAI, which pegged its losses at Rs 48.35 crore - taking into account the loss of interest and also illegal payments to 17 fake beneficiaries.
Bhim Singh is still behind bars but Sheokand who was on the run for more than a year was granted bail by a Panchkula court. Sheokand boasts of a connection with a top Congress leader.