New Delhi/Chandigarh, January 18
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Tuesday raided multiple locations in poll-bound Punjab, including those linked to a relative of Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi, as part of a money laundering probe against the ‘sand mafia’ and companies linked to alleged illegal sand mining in the border state, officials said.
It seized about Rs 6 crore in cash during the action out of which around Rs 4 crore was recovered from a Ludhiana located premises linked to Bhupinder Singh alias Honey, the nephew of Channi’s sister-in-law.
In all, a dozen locations in the state including Chandigarh, Mohali, Ludhiana and Pathankot were covered by the officials of the federal agency.
The action that continued till late evening was being carried out with an armed escort of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel.
Official sources said the raids are being undertaken under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).
Reacting to the raids, Channi told reporters that relatives of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee were raided during the assembly polls in that state and the “same pattern” is being followed by the ED in Punjab to “pressure” him, his ministers and Congress party members.
“We are ready to handle the pressure…,” he said, adding he had no links with the case.
The sources said Honey’s links with a person identified as Kudratdeep Singh are being investigated by the agency and the latter is the focus of their action. They said Honey and Singh are partners in a firm.
Opposition parties have earlier linked Channi with the dealings of Honey which the former had denied.
The ED action, the sources said, has been initiated after taking cognisance of a 2018 FIR of the Nawanshahr (Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar district) Police and some other such police complaints against some companies and individuals alleged to be involved in the business of illegal sand mining in the state.
A number of truck drivers and other operatives involved in the extraction and transportation of sand were named as accused in these police FIRs.
The sources said the police FIR is only the start of an investigation and once the ED takes over a case under the PMLA, it is empowered to enlarge its probe to verify the role of all those who are linked to the alleged illegal activity including those giving “protection” to the sand mining mafia.
The ED, the sources said, found that mining was being carried out at non-notified areas and the ‘sand mafia’ was diverting and laundering the illegally earned monies into creating personal and benami assets.
Voting for 117 assembly seats in Punjab is slated on February 20. PTI