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Money laundering probe: Chandigarh ED raids its former official in Rs 600-cr ponzi scam case

Gurnam Singh is accused of taking bribes up to Rs 6 cr to weaken case while he was deputy director of ED’s Chandigarh office in 2011

punjab Updated: Mar 23, 2018 13:13 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Money laundering probe,ponzi scam,Rs 600-cr ponzi scam
Singh, who joined the Chandigarh ED office as its deputy director in 2011, was the investigating officer in the ponzi case for several years before he was repatriated to his home department in Chandigarh Central Forensic Laboratory in January 2017.  (Representative image )

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Thursday raided the premises of its former deputy director Gurnam Singh in connection with the Rs 600-crore ponzi scam that surfaced in 2011.

Searches were conducted simultaneously at Singh’s house in Phase 2, Mohali, and the premises of his aides — advocate Puneet Sharma and Ramesh Chandel — who also live in Mohali, under provisions of the Prevention of the Money Laundering Act (PMLA). Chandel is Sharma’s stenographer.

Singh, who joined the Chandigarh ED office as its deputy director in 2011, was the investigating officer in the ponzi case for several years before he was repatriated to his home department in Chandigarh Central Forensic Laboratory in January 2017.

Officials familiar with the matter claimed that Singh took bribe to the tune of Rs 4-6 crore in connivance with Sharma and Chandel to weaken the case, adding that for the entire duration of his ED posting, there wasn’t a single arrest in the case.

It was only after his repatriation that ED made an arrest in July 2017 when it caught Kamal K Bakshi, the absconding agent of the fraudulent chit fund firm under the anti-money laundering law. His arrest led the ED to identify more accused. Officials said it was through the accused’s disclosures that names of Singh and his aides cropped up.

“The raids were conducted under the PMLA to gather more evidence in this context,” said officials, who remained tight-lipped on any recovery made during the raids.

However, an ED official, wishing not to be named, said the agency was in possession of property documents that were transferred by the accused in the name of Chandel, following a deal with Singh and Sharma. “We are not arresting them as of now, but arrests in the future are not ruled out,” an official said. None of the accused could be contacted despite several attempts.

Mastermind out of reachsince 2010

ED officials said the mastermind of the scam was a Malaysian, identified as Mugundhan Gangam, who floated two firms — Ms Unipay 2U Marketing Private Limited and Unigateway2U Trading Private Limited — to cheat investors. These firms had offices in various parts of India, including Chandigarh.

As per the complainants, the firms’ modus operandi involved paying exorbitant returns to investors to win over their confidence. After thousands of people across the country invested crores in the schemes, the firms stopped the payouts and closed their units, siphoning off the investors’ money.

As investors lodged police complaints against the firm and its employees in 2010, Gangam slipped out of the country, and is said to be hiding in Malaysia.The first case in Chandigarh was registered by UT Police’s economic offences wing in 2011 after four tricity residents complained of being cheated of about Rs 50 lakh.

“ED took over the probe on the orders of the Punjab and Haryana high court after many investors filed a petition seeking a wider probe,” an official said.

Assets worth Rs 1.63 crore have been attached in this case under the PMLA, said the agency, even as another agent of the firm, identified as Arvind Kumar Singh, has yet to be arrested.

Singh’s role in other cases under scanner: ED

ED officials said Singh’s role in other cases when he was the main investigating officer was under investigation. He is also facing a disproportionate asset case after the Central Bureau of Investigation booked him in November 2017.

First Published: Mar 23, 2018 13:12 IST