Friday, April 5, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

How Sidhu dealt in shares online
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 4
The Vigilance team investigating PPSC Chairman Ravi Sidhu’s corruption case achieved a major breakthrough when, assisted by certain computer software specialists, it was able to decipher some of the confidential files on his personal computer. The files contain valuable information about investments made by him in the share market.

Not only that, the investigators were also able to restore some of the files which the PPSC Chairman had deleted. The software engineers were successful in decoding certain passwords to gain access to his investments, not only in the share market, bonds and funds but also those in financial institutions abroad through his contact in Belgium.

One of the commercial properties owned by the PPSC Chairman, the acquisition of which has still not been satisfactorily explained by him, has been rented out to a foreign airline against a security deposit equivalent to six months’ rent of the property . This security deposit was Rs 10.5 lakh, meaning thereby that the monthly rent in 1999 was Rs 1.75 lakh.

The receipt so issued to the airline is signed by Mrs Pritpal Kaur, a Director of the Presstime Information Services. The other Director of the company is Ravi Sidhu himself.

An interesting revelation from the decoding of his personal computer files is that he also owns a private company — Presstime Information Services Private Limited — whose headquarters kept on changing. Initially, it was H.No 145, Sector 9, Chandigarh. This is the house owned by the late Autar Singh Sekhon, a retired Chief Engineer, who, as claimed by Ravi Sidhu, bequeathed his Masonic Lodge at Kasauli to him.

But a recent transaction shows that the headquarters of the Presstime Information Services was H.No 914, Sector 39-A, the official residence of the PPSC Chairman. This house, a Minister’s house, was allotted to him as a journalist by the previous Congress government headed by Beant Singh.

Doubts have also been raised on whether a man holding a constitutional post — Chairman, PPSC — can be a Director of a private compay and use his official residence as the headquarters of the company.

One of the letters sent by Ravi Sidhu to Mumbai-based Essel Packaging, an investors’ services company, reveals that he purchased 1,050 shares and paid a little more than Rs 2 lakh through bank drafts in June, 1999. This letter he had reportedly written on behalf of the Presstime Information Services as its Director.

The most startling revelation made during the decoding of his personal computer files has been the share market portfolio of his teenaged daughter, Raisa Sidhu, which, as on March 24, 2002, a day before he was trapped, revealed that she had growth fund units worth Rs 68,51,871.54 in her name. These growth funds are of Birla GPLT, HDFC Gilt Fund Long-Term Plan - Growth, Templeton GSF- Dividend and Templeton GSF-Growth.

Between February 4 and 27 this year, he sold shares worth Rs 9,34,312 and purchased new ones worth Rs 11 lakh of Pioneer ITI Bluechip - Growth. This, feel the investigators, is only one of several business transactions he made in February. Between February 3 and 11, he reportedly purchased Birla GPLT- Growth units worth Rs 20 lakh. He is also believed  to have invested a similar amount — Rs 20 lakh — in Zurich India Equity-Growth on February 5 this year.

The investigators are convinced that Ravi Sidhu has been indulging in heavy purchase and sale of shares online. In some of the transactions, suspect the investigators, the credit card of Brussels-based Amandeep Singh Gill was also used.

Mr Gill had on Republic Day last year conveyed to Ravi Sidhu his Visa Card number (4506 6347 9912 2012) valid until August, 2002, through e-mail.

It was Mr Gill who had been sending him information about the private banking client service of the Luxembourg subsidiary of the famous Swiss bank UBS. The investigators do not rule out the possibility of the PPSC Chairman holding bank accounts abroad, including Belgium or Luxembourg, besides some other countries. They are also looking into certain suspected “hawala transactions”. ConcludedBack

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