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Need to probe drugs, sand mining money link: STF report

Says statements of accused to Enforcement Directorate merit probe into legality of Bikram Majithia indulging in sand mining business while being a minister

punjab Updated: Apr 09, 2018 16:58 IST
Sukhdeep Kaur
Sukhdeep Kaur
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Punjab,sand mafia,illegal mining

As the sordid saga of illegal sand mining continues to haunt the Congress government, a status report of the special task force (STF) submitted to the Punjab and Haryana high court (HC) has hinted at an unholy nexus between drug trade and sand mining money.

In his report, STF chief ADGP Harpreet Sidhu has not only concluded that former Akali minister Bikram Singh Majithia had a role in supply of drug pseudoephedrine to Canadian NRIs — Satpreet Singh aluas Satta and Parminder Singh alias Pindi — but also that the legality of him indulging in mining, while being a minister, too needs investigation.

“It is necessary to examine whether funds from alleged drug trade were also invested, utilised or held in common with the funds from the alleged sand mining business.”

Naming Majithia’s close associates who figured in illegal sand mining during the previous Akali-BJP government, the report says there is a need to probe the link between funds from drugs and sand mining.

“The issue of sand mining is of importance due to the likely overlap of time periods with the conduct of drug trade. It is necessary to examine whether funds from alleged drug trade were also invested, utilised or held in common with the funds from the alleged sand mining business,” it says.

The last part of the report delves deeply into whether there are any links of monetary transaction of Majithia with the accused figuring in the drug case. Its findings say Jagjit Singh Chahal, an Amritsar businessman, has stated that, “Majithia was involved in the sand mining business with Maninder Singh alias Bittu Aulakh and Bonny Amarpal Ajnala (former MLA).”

It adds, “Aulakh has stated that Majithia was involved in the sand mining business along with Kanwarjit Singh, also known as, Rosy Barkandi (now the Muktsar MLA). The involvement of Majithia in sand mining has been asserted by both Chahal and Aulakh. The legality of Majithia allegedly indulging in the sand mining business while being a minister is a significant issue and needs to be verified through investigation.”

Saying that evaluation of the statements of Jagjit Singh Chahal before the Enforcement Directorate (ED) reveal that a, “Payment of ₹35 lakh was allegedly made to Majithia in seven-eight instalments between 2007 to 2012 as he required these funds for election purpose,” it points out that at this time, Chahal was allegedly involved in manufacturing/supply of illegal drugs/substances.

“Chahal also stated that Majithia received funds in Canada. It is also to be investigated whether funds if received have been transferred abroad/received abroad and whether these have been converted into other assets by examining financial transactions made by persons who are close associates, partners and family members of all those involved in the case to uncover whether their assets and investments/business incomes are generated from genuine earnings or are only fronts/benami assets and investments for those connected with the drug trade. Such an investigation can be meaningful only if business transactions and investments are examined, over a period of time rather than at a single point alone,” Sidhu’s report states.

Political battle lines drawn within SAD

The drug case has also drawn political battle lines within the Akali Dal. Bonny Ajnala has filed an affidavit before the Mehtab Singh Gill Commission formed by the Congress government to probe political vendetta cases that alleges that “Majithia implicated his close aide Bittu Aulakh to deny Lok Sabha seat to his father Rattan Ajnala, a three-time MP. But the commission has expressed its inability to intervene in a sub-judice matter.

Eradicating the drug and sand mafia was the vote-catching promise of the Congress in last year's polls. But the sand syndicate continues to browbeat government's efforts to curb illegal mining. A cabinet sub-committee is now looking at ways to do so and will submit its report to government this month.

First Published: Apr 09, 2018 09:16 IST