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Body at Forest Hill resort: Lt Col Sandhu, from consultancy to controversy

The chairman-cum-managing director of WWICS, known for his networking skills and lavish parties, is under scanner for links to the death of a 28-year-old CTU staffer.

punjab Updated: May 17, 2018 12:56 IST
Shailee Dogra
Shailee Dogra
Hindustan Times, Mohali
Lt Col Sandhu,bosy at resort,WWICS
chairman-cum-managing director of WWICS Lt Col Baljit Singh Sandhu (retd)

An Army officer who took premature retirement and immigrated to Canada, taking on the roles of a land surveyor, a supermarket owner and then an immigration consultant before returning to India to open up businesses, 75-year-old Lt Col Baljit Singh Sandhu (retd) is no stranger to controversies.

The chairman-cum-managing director of World Wide Immigration Consultancy Services Private Limited (WWICS), known for his networking skills and lavish parties for prominent bureaucrats, legal eagles and police officers, is now under the scanner for his links to the death of a 28-year-old Chandigarh Transport Undertaking (CTU) staffer.

What the future holds for a man known for narrowly escaping death in the Army and saving lives of his comrades is unclear as of now.

Escaped death in 1971 Indo-Pak war

An Artillery man who was in the Indian Army from 1961 to 1988, Sandhu escaped death when he and his contingent were ambushed by enemies in the 1971 India-Pakistan war in the Chamb Jaurian sector of Jammu and Kashmir. In 1984, he was commended for saving the lives of five Army men after their vehicle plunged into a 300-foot-deep ravine.

Soon, however, Sandhu took premature retirement and migrated to Canada, working as land surveyor and later setting up a food supermarket business in Toronto. Most of his customers were known to be Asians, particularly Indians. As some were illegal migrants, Sandhu, who had worked closely with Canadian immigration authorities and law firms, helped them fight cases and resettle.

This work helped him launch WWICS in 1992 with two offices in Toronto, Canada; and Mohali. Today, after 25 years, it’s a global enterprise with its Asian headquarters in Mohali, 18 offices across India and 14 abroad with 1,000 employees, claiming a turnover of $4.4 million.

Eminent personalities have been appointed to the company’s advisory board, including Lt Gen BKN Chhibber (retd), former Punjab governor; Ashok Khanna, chairman of Khanna Watches; and Dr Kuldeep Singh Dhindsa, a scientist and professor.

Sons helps run businesses

Sandhu’s sons Davinder and Parvinder help run his business, though things have not run smoothly for them. A case of cheating was registered against Lt Col Sandhu and Davinder in February 2012 in Sector 17, Chandigarh, under the Indian Penal Code and Immigration Act. Both were, however, acquitted in 2016.

Davinder, an arts graduate from Panjab University, was in trouble again early this year when he was arrested for abetting the suicide of a former vice-president of Chief Khalsa Diwan (CKD) Inderpreet Singh Chadha. He’s out on bail now.

Parvinder has been raised and educated in Canada. He joined the University of Toronto in 1990 to pursue mechanical engineering before joining his father’s businesses.

Got immigration consultancy licence in 2014

Sandhu’s WWICS office in Mohali, was granted a licence for immigration consultancy in 2014, but in December last year Mohali deputy commissioner Gurpreet Kaur Sapra ordered its cancellation saying critical facts about the FIR (mentioned above) had been concealed when WWICS applied for the licence.

The district administration also said that as Sandhu and Davinder were NRIs (Canadian citizens) they should have applied for Reserve Bank of India approvals for the licence. However, WWICS, managed to get a stay on the cancellation of the licence from the Punjab and Haryana high court.

There were problems at Forest Hill Golf and Country Club, too. All commercial activities were banned after the Punjab government pointed to violation of forest laws and environment norms as its land was part of an area declared a protected forest.

Though CBI had raided the premises, an October 2006 notification of the Central government delisting 707 hectares of land from the forest cover, including the club land, helped Sandhu sail through.

Businessman and philanthropist

WWICS has adopted six families with 12 children of Kargil martyrs. The Dashmesh Educational Society of which Lt Col Sandhu is president is running a vocational school for girls from rural areas in Karoran villages.

The Sandhus run several business, most of them associated with education abroad and job placements besides real estate, software development, diagnostic imaging and law offices.

First Published: May 17, 2018 12:56 IST