The Enforcement Directorate has attached a farmhouse here having a market value of Rs 27 crore in connection with its money laundering probe against Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh and others.
The agency alleged the property in the upmarket south Delhi area of Dera Mandi near Mehrauli was purchased ‘out of laundered money through shell firms’.
It indicated that the funds were paid as quid pro quo by the director of a Delhi-based firm for establishing a hydro power plant in Himachal Pradesh’s Chamba district.
The agency issued a provisional order attaching the farmhouse under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act and said while the book value of the asset is Rs 6.61 crore, its market value is Rs 27.29 crore, as per a valuation done by the Income Tax department.
The farmhouse, it said, is in the name of Ms Maple Destinations and Dreambuild, a firm in which Singh’s son Vikramaditya is a major shareholder and his daughter Aprajita a minor shareholder. Both are also listed as the directors of the firm, it said.
The ED said its probe found that ‘illicit money of Singh was also invested in purchase’ of this immovable asset.
‘The farmhouse was purchased for an amount of Rs 1.20 crore as per registry value. The payment was made by two cheques of Rs 15 lakh each (Rs 30 lakh) and two cheques of Rs 45 lakh each (Rs 90 lakh).
‘The investigation further revealed that a sum of Rs 5.41 crore was paid in cash to purchase the farmhouse. Investigation...revealed that the funds had been provided through Vakamulla Chandrashekar, Promoter/Director of Tarini Group of Companies, engaged in hydro power projects,’ the agency said in a statement.
It said that ‘incidentally Chandrashekar’s company was awarded Saikothi plant in Chamba, Himachal Pradesh’ and the cheque amount for purchase of farmhouse was given from his personal bank accounts.
‘He (Chandrashekar's) had given a total of Rs 5.9 crore to Singh and family members out of which Rs 90 lakh was transferred from the account of Singh to his son Vikramaditya which was ultimately utilised for purchase of farmhouse by Ms Maple Destinations and Dreambuild Private Limited,’ it said.
The funds provided by Chandrashekar were ‘routed through certain paper entities’ or shell firms, it said.
‘The directorate (ED) on investigating these firms came to the conclusion that these firms were paper concerns or shell companies opened in name of employees with meagre salary primarily for providing accommodation entries and the addresses of the firms were found fake.
‘It was also revealed that even a fake bank account was opened in name of one Gursharan Singh at HDFC Bank and was used to provide entry to Chandrashekar. Another firm Ms Jai Bharat Foods was utilised for showing fake agricultural income against fake bills,’ it said.
It said the bank entries were facilitated by a manager working at the HDFC Bank branch in Mansarover Garden in New Delhi.
The ED had attached assets valued at Rs 7.93 crore in this case in March last year and with this latest order, the total attachments stand at Rs 35.22 crore.
The latest ED action comes close on the heels of the Central Bureau of Investigation filing a charge sheet against Singh, a six-time chief minister, and his wife and others for allegedly amassing assets worth around Rs 10 crore disproportionate to their known sources of income.
The ED had filed a criminal case under the PMLA against the 82-year-old Congress leader and others in 2015 based on a CBI first information report.
The Congress has ruled out the removal of the Himachal Pradesh chief minister following the CBI chargesheet.
Party spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi had said last week that there was ‘nothing to worry about’ in the case as it was done out of ‘political vendetta’ and that Singh would fight it out and emerge victorious.
The BJP has demanded the resignation of Singh, asserting that he has become a ‘symbol of corruption’.
Assembly polls in Himachal Pradesh are slated for later this year.