Punjab: ED conducts raids in case linked to guava orchards compensation ‘scam’

Chandigarh : The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Wednesday conducted searches in multiple cities of Punjab as part of a money laundering investigation linked to an alleged Rs 137-crore guava orchards compensation scam, official sources said.

Premises in Chandigarh, Mohali, Patiala, Ferozepur and Bathinda were raided by the federal probe agency under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), the sources said.

Various news media platforms also broadcast visuals of searches being carried out at the residences of senior officers like Punjab Excise Commissioner Varun Roojam and Ferozepur Deputy Commissioner Rajesh Dhiman.

However, there was no official confirmation if these officers were being searched by the ED in the said case.

The money laundering case stems from a Punjab Vigilance Bureau FIR pertaining to alleged embezzlement of nearly Rs 137 crore released as compensation for guava orchards on land acquired by the Greater Mohali Area Development Authority (GMADA).

The Punjab Vigilance Bureau had arrested about 20 persons, including some horticulture department officials, in this case, the sources said.

The GMADA had in 2016 published notices in Mohali for acquisition of land of various villages and later also issued notifications in this regard.

An alleged accused, identified as property dealer Bhupinder Singh, “in connivance with” some officials of the GMADA, revenue and horticulture departments, started planting guava orchards on the said agricultural land by getting land on general power of attorneys, as per an old statement issued by the vigilance bureau.

Singh along with another person identified as Mukesh Jindal and some others got land compensation worth crores of rupees by showing that they owned guava orchards.

The state vigilance bureau had also filed a charge sheet against the accused.