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Amritsar Improvement Trust scam is over Rs 37.18 crore, say cops; will conduct forensic audit of accounts

Forensic audit underway, scam could balloon to Rs 80 crore.

punjab Updated: Oct 28, 2017 11:52 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Amritsar
Amritsar Improvement Trust,Corruption,Fraud
Punjab Local Bodies Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu along with Police Commissioner SS Srivastava (L) and Deputy Commissioner Kamaldeep Singh Sangha (R) addressing a press conference at police lines, Amritsar on Friday(Sameer Sehgal)

The status report of the Amritsar Improvement Trust (AIT) scam has so far unveiled a scam of Rs 37.18 crore. The police will now conduct a forensic audit of the accounts.

Meanwhile, the amount of financial bungling is likely to grow over Rs 80 crore as the police are checking the accounts of Daman Bhalla, the key accused in the money bungling case. Bhalla was the deputy controller of finance and accounts (DCFA) of the AIT and was arrested on October 23 while he was going to meet his mother at Shastri Nagar locality here.

Bhalla, allegedly in connivance with co-accused in the case, opened five illegal accounts in the name of the improvement trust but their records were not entered in the cash book of the department.

The case was registered by the city police on September 10 after chief vigilance office of the local bodies department unearthed the scam during investigations.

According to the police, executive officer Arvind Sharma signed 57 cheques, DC Garg signed 55 cheques and Paramjit signed three cheques.

The other six accused in the case are Arvind Sharma, DC Garg, Paramjit Singh, Tina Vohra, CA Sanjay Kapoor and bill clerk Satnam Singh. Except Satnam Singh, who was granted bail by the Punjab and Haryana high court, all five accused are on the run.

“Around Rs 31 crore cash withdrawals were unearthed through these five fake accounts. They used to siphon off the interest on the fixed deposits earned from these accounts. After demonetisation, Rs 1.36 crore was siphoned off through demand drafts. The accused used to make demand drafts of less than Rs 2 lakh each time, in order to dodge the income the tax department,” said SS Srivastava, police commissioner, Amritsar.

The police also recovered Rs 4.98 crore cash from one of Bhalla’s accounts. They say that the accounts of the accused have been seized. Bhalla also acquired five properties worth Rs 11 crore out of which, four are in the name of his wife. The planning behind the scam commenced in 2011 but the financial bungling was initiated between 2013-17, claimed Srivastava.

“No formal audit was conducted after 2011 facilitating the accused but now a forensic audit will be initiated. The whole staff is under the scanner. We are also going to initiate an audit for a Rs 797 crore scheme which was launched by the accused for the development project in Ranjit Avenue,” the commissioner said.

Local bodies minister Navjot Singh Sidhu congratulated the police for exposing the scam and arresting the accused. “Police needs to be given a free hand and there shouldn’t be any political interference. The previous government facilitated the accused to indulge in corruption as no audit was initiated in the past 10 years in the department. Money will be returned to the public by seizing the properties of the accused,” Sidhu said. “The structure needs to be in place. No action was taken despite receiving 631 queries against the functioning of the department. Now everyone will be held accountable through audits,” he added.

According to the police, executive officer Arvind Sharma signed 57 cheques, DC Garg signed 55 cheques and Paramjit signed three cheques. The accused transferred the money into their family members’ accounts. They used to deposit money related to the AIT in forged bank accounts opened in the name of the trust. They would then withdraw the amount on the pretext of spending on various works such as disbursal of salaries and other “public friendly” tasks.

Cheques amounting to Rs 15.16 crore were issued from this account for issuing pay orders. Two pay orders were issued to Satnam Singh, clerk, and one pay to Bhalla’s father Narinder Nath, the police said.

First Published: Oct 28, 2017 11:46 IST