The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Badal, family face toned-down charges

Chandigarh, Nov. 22: The Punjab Vigilance Bureau today filed a watered-down chargesheet in the corruption case against former chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, his son Sukhbir and wife Surinder Kaur in a Ropar court.

The chargesheet says investigations have pegged the market value of Badal’s properties at Rs 4,326 crore, including alleged overseas assets “indicated to be in the possession of the Badal family” estimated at $850 million, or Rs 3,825 crore. However, it mentions only Rs 78,39,52,503 as the value of properties disproportionate to the family’s known sources of income.

Chief minister Amarinder Singh had alleged during the run-up to the Assembly polls that the Shiromani Akali Dal chief had amassed Rs 3,500 crore during his five-year tenure from 1997 to 2002.

An angry Badal reacted to the chargesheet by calling it “a bundle of lies”. He blamed the Congress, which had toppled him in last year’s elections, for the “political” chargesheet and said the “drama (was) enacted at the behest of the Congress high command”.

The chargesheet, which had earlier been leaked to the family, was presented by investigating officer

Surinder Pal Singh, an SP in the economic offences wing of the vigilance bureau. Sukhbir, who is a Rajya Sabha MP, and Surinder have been named co-accused along with three others, Narottam Dhillon, Harbans Lal and Jagnandan Singh, identified as “close” to the family.

A total of 10 properties have been cited. They include Orbit Resorts Ltd, Gurgaon, the Balasar farmhouse in Sirsa, two houses and an office in Chandigarh, a poultry farm in Palanpur, a petrol pump and bank building in Killinanwalli and two flats on Barakhamba Road in New Delhi. The chargesheet also accuses the family of money laundering through hawala.

Vigilance chief A.P. Pandey said the Badals could be arrested if there was need for their custodial interrogation. But he added that since Amarinder had said they would not be arrested, “he will not be arrested”. “We will now take directions from the court. At the moment we have filed no petition seeking the Badals’ custody for interrogation,” he said.

Pandey admitted that the corruption case against Badal was “political” and said investigations were on to find out about the alleged assets abroad.

“We will submit a supplementary chargesheet as and when we get evidence. At the moment we do not have any evidence of the Badals’ foreign links, only indications,” he added.

The vigilance chief said two senior serving police officers, who complained that they had paid to get a transfer of their choice to Sukhbir on demand, would not be chargesheeted.

Pandey said the vigilance bureau would take the help of the Centre and Interpol to unearth Badal’s properties abroad. “We will go through all channels to unearth the Badals’ wealth. There are also indications that the former chief minister is linked to the cash-for-job PPSC (Punjab Public Service Commission) scam,” he said, hinting that the corruption probe against Badal could be widened.

Assembly Speaker Kewal Krishan had yesterday given his nod to chargesheet Badal.

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