ED probes into laundering of NH-74 scam money, will attach properties
With the Enforcement Directorate (ED) launching investigations into suspected money laundering in the multi-crore NH-74 land acquisition and compensation scam, more skeletons are likely to tumble out soonUpdated: Jun 06, 2018 22:23 IST
With the Enforcement Directorate (ED) launching investigations into suspected money laundering in the multi-crore NH-74 land acquisition and compensation scam, more skeletons are likely to tumble out soon.
The central agency is also likely to attach properties of some of the accused who include revenue and NHAI officials, farmers, builders and brokers, officials familiar with the matter said.
The scam pertains to land acquisition for construction and widening of the 374-km long Haridwar-Bareilly stretch of national highway (NH)-74 in Uttarakhand. Farmland was shown as commercial land and some select beneficiaries procured at least 10 times more compensation from the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI). Most of the cases were reported from the Kashipur, Jaspur, Bajapur, and Sitarganj areas of Udham Singh Nagar district.
Initially pegged at nearly Rs 300 crore, the scam may actually run into several times the figure, as per an ED official who requested not to be named. The official said that apart from probing into the money laundering, investigations would also focus on nexus between the bureaucrats and politicians in this scam.
“As per the charge sheets filed by the special investigation Team (SIT) probing this scam, various stakeholders fraudulently received 8-9 times higher compensation for the land acquired for NH 74 in Udham Singh Nagar district by changing the land use from agriculture to non-agriculture category. This was carried out through back dated orders and entries under Section 143 of UP Zamindari Abolition and Land Reforms Act, 1950,” the official said.
The change in land use, allegedly with the help of revenue officials, was mostly carried out in back dates between 2012 and 2015.
Given the amount of money involved in the scam, the ED shall, under Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002, investigate into “proceeds of crime” and “money laundering” involving its concealment, possession, acquisition, or use and projecting or claiming it as legitimate property.
It was then Kumaon Commissioner D Senthil Pandiyan who blew the whistle on the scam and submitted a report. Taking cognizance of the report, chief minister Trivendra Singh Rawat, who took charge in March last year, suspended six state-level officers and recommended a CBI probe.
Later, the state government handed over the probe to the SIT that has since then questioned more than 225 NHAI and revenue officials, farmers, builders, and brokers. The SIT, in course of investigation, also arrested 20 people including revenue officials, farmers and four officers of SDM rank.
The Centre had last month rejected Rawat’s request for a CBI probe into the scam. The rejection comes a year after Union minister for road transport and highways Nitin Gadkari advised against the CBI probe saying it would have an adverse impact on the morale of NHAI officials, prompting Congress to allege that the BJP governments in the state and at the Centre were trying to save some “’big names” involved in the scam.