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NRI Kandola ‘runs drug cartel, funds terror from jail’: Special cell probe on, but questions remain

Arrested by the Jalandhar (rural) police in June 2012, Kandola is in jail in a case of recovery of ‘Ice’ party drug worth more than Rs 200 crore. On July 22, he was taken on production warrants from the jail by the SSOC to its headquarters in Amritsar. 

punjab Updated: Jul 26, 2017 22:32 IST
Ravinder Vasudeva
Ravinder Vasudeva
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Punjab drugs cartel,Raja Kandola,Ice party drug
Raja Kandola in police custody at the Jalandhar courts after a hearing. (HT File Photo)

The State Special Operation Cell (SSOC) of Punjab Police is interrogating arrested NRI Ranjeet Singh, alias Raja Kandola, afresh after “strong clues” that the alleged drug lord, who is lodged in the Kapurthala central jail for more than two years now, has set up a drug cartel inside the jail and is funding terror activities too with the money.

First arrested by the Jalandhar (rural) police in June 2012, Kandola is in jail in a case of recovery of ‘Ice’ party drug worth more than Rs 200 crore. On July 22, he was taken on production warrants from the jail by the SSOC to its headquarters in Amritsar.

The SSOC’s swift action came after he was reportedly named by two NRIs arrested by the anti-drug Special Task Force (STF) from Goraya in Jalandhar with heroin on July 19. Both of them, Palwinderjit Singh and Ravinder Singh Ravi, are said to be close aides of Kandola.

Amid the buzz that the special cell only wanted to divert the attention of the STF to save police officers allegedly close to Kandola, SSOC assistant inspector general Sukhwinder Maan only confirmed that Kandola is being interrogated and said: “Whenever we will have anything to share, we will share it with the media.” Sources said inspector general of police and SSOC in-charge Kunwar Vijay Partap Singh is personally monitoring the probe.

“Kandola’s role is suspected in some cases of terrorism in Punjab as he has strong links among smugglers across borders, in Pakistan, the UK and the USA. This is a case of immense importance for the state,” said an SSOP officer who refused to be named.

Enforcement Directorate (ED) is already probing Kandola’s case since 2013 and has filed two chargesheets.

Links with top cops

But, has the special cell picked him up so the STF can’t get hold of him and bring out dirty secrets? Sources in the department said Kandola was close to senior police officers; even when cops raided his farmhouse in Samrala in 2012, an SP-rank officer was found residing there.

The ED, too, found “strong proof” about “special favours” taken by an IG, a DIG and an SP-rank officer from Kandola, said a senior officer on the condition of anonymity. “This IG was even summoned by the ED; but the matter was buried in files. The investigation could not move in the direction of probing the role of police officers,” a source in the ED said.

It must be underlined that Kandola was arrested by the then in-charge of Jalandhar rural police’s crime investigation agency (CIA), Inderjeet Singh, who was recently busted in a smuggling case and subsequently dismissed as an inspector.

“Who bought Kandola’s house in Sacramento, California, after he landed in police net? And where did his Jaguar car recovered from Samrala disappear? These remain unanswered questions,” the ED officer added.

That is why the police HQ in Chandigarh is abuzz with the theory that Kandola was picked up for interrogation on behalf of some officers to divert the STF’s attention. But the STF, sources said, would still seek his remand.

A native of Haipowal village of Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar (Nawanshahr), Kandola was allegedly running a racket manufacturing party drugs from methamphetamine and ephedrine, and was getting heroin supply from Pakistan.

Who is Raja Kandola?

Raja Kandola (HT File Photo)

Police said Kandola shifted to the UK in the late 1990s and became rich overnight after he fell into the drug trade there. In India, he was allegedly running a racket manufacturing ‘Ice’ (a party drug) from methamphetamine and ephedrine and was getting heroin supplies from Pakistan to further smuggle to Delhi and abroad.

He owned massive properties across Punjab, UK and USA, and many of his properties have already been attached by the ED in cases of money laundering.

In Delhi, as per police records, he was running a racket through his alleged girlfriend Vania Khanna who was sentenced to 10-year imprisonment by a Hoshiarpur court in a case of drugs. Kandola escaped from police custody in September 2015 but was rearrested from Rajasthan by the Delhi crime branch.

Kandola’s wife, Rajwant Kaur, and son, Bally Singh, have also been booked by the ED under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.

First Published: Jul 26, 2017 22:29 IST