In an interview with The Quint, ex-CM of Haryana, Bhupinder Singh Hooda, currently the subject of a money-laundering investigation by the Enforcement Directorate (ED), sought to defend himself.
The ED PMLA case against me is politically motivated. I had not favoured anyone during my tenure as CM of Haryana. So far, ED officials have not contacted me. I am ready to cooperate in the investigation.Bhupinder Singh Hooda to The Quint
On 5 May 2015, the vigilance department of the Haryana police registered
an FIR against Hooda and the office bearer of AJL under the Prevention
of Corruption Act.
It has now come to light that the ED has registered a money-laundering case against Hooda for allocating land to the Associated Journal Ltd (AJL) at an unreasonably low price, causing losses to the government to the tune of Rs 62 lakh.
The Quint gained exclusive access to the details of the FIR. Here are the salient points:
- On 24 August 1982, plot no. 17, Sector-6, Panchkula was allotted to Associates
Journal Ltd (AJL) by the Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA).
- As per the rules and conditions of allotment, AJL was required to start
construction on the plot within six months of possession and complete
it in 2 years.
- AJL failed to complete the construction within the stipulated time.
- As a result, the Estate Officer took possession of the plot on 30 October 1992. He deducted 10% from the
amount deposited by the company and returned the rest.
- On 28 August 2005, the Administrator of HUDA ordered re-allotment of the same plot to AJL at the price rate of 1982. According to the ED, the re-allotment was in violation of the rules and constituted a misuse of an official position.
- According to the investigators, by allocating the plot to AJL at the 1982 price rate, HUDA passed on a financial benefit of Rs 62 lakh to AJL.
- The ED has registered money-laundering case against HUDA’s then-Chief Administrator, its then-Administrator, its then-Chairman, its then-Vit Aayukt, Department of Town and Country Planning and the office bearers of AJL.
Who Are the Office Bearers of AJL?
The AJL was established by Jawahar Lal Nehru in 1937. AJL is the owner of the The National Herald newspaper, which has been embroiled in controversy.
Names of the Office Bearers:
- Oscar Fernandes, Director (AJL) and a senior Congress leader
- Deepender Singh, Director (AJL), son of ex CM Haryana, Hooda and Congress MP
- Satyan Gangaram Pitroda, Director (AJL) and close to Gandhi family
- Moti Lal Vohra, Managing Director (AJL) and treasurer of Congress Party
- Dipakbhai Ratilal Babaria, Director (AJL)
- Suman Dubey, Director (AJL), former journalist and close to Gandhi family
According to sources in the agency, Hooda and the above office bearers will be questioned by ED officials during the investigation.
Only Rs 62 Lakh? Why Now?
Calling the ED FIR against Hooda a witch-hunt, a senior Congress leader raised questions about why investigating agencies become particularly active during the Parliament session.
The attention on the case is certainly unusual in that the alleged laundered amount of Rs 62 lakh is
probably the lowest sum for which any high-profile politicians have
been investigated in recent times.
Now the ED will attempt to track the alleged Rs 62 lakh – potentially attaching property or assets of the same value – and seek to discern whether Hooda received any financial benefit in return for re-allotting the land at the lower price rate.
AJL vs National Herald Scam
Based on BJP leader Subramanium Swamy’s complaint, there is an ongoing case on The National Herald scam in the Delhi lower court. The case is against top Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi and associated persons. According to the complainant, Congress granted an interest-free loan of around Rs 90 crore to AJL, owner of The National Herald. Swamy alleged criminal misappropriation by Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi as the loan was not repaid. The court took cognisance of the complaint and summoned the Gandhis to court.
While The National Herald scam deals with the loan, the AJL case in ED is a separate case around the misuse of an official post by the ex-CM in allotting a plot of land in Panchkula to AJL.
The previous Parliament session couldn’t function because of the Agusta Westland scam.
Will the current Parliament session too be paralysed by the AJL case?