Saturday, April 20, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

8.16 cr found in Sidhu’s lockers
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

What was Parminder doing?

Intriguingly, Parminder Singh, alias Pinki, who at one time was known for his proximity to a former Punjab Governor, Lieut-Gen B.K.N. Chhibber, and senior Punjab Congressmen, was present in the bank when the lockers were being opened. He was even present when IG Vigilance A.P. Pandey was briefing mediamen. For some unknown reason he lingered on at the scene and on a few occasions was even seen discussing something with the SP Vigilance. His accomplice , one Capt Rajesh, could be seen going in and out of the bank, talking on his mobile and passing on the latest information. Who permitted these two near the scene was unknown.

Chandigarh, April 19
In what is the single largest haul of the ill-gotten wealth of Punjab Public Service Commission (PPSC) Chairman Ravi Sidhu, sleuths of the Punjab Vigilance Department today recovered a whopping Rs 8.16 crore stashed away in five lockers of IndusInd Bank in Sector 8, here.

With today’s recovery, the amount of Sidhu’s wealth uncovered by the Vigilance Department goes up to Rs 25 crore. This includes property, National Saving Certificates and investments in shares of blue chip companies. The department hopes to recover more by opening more lockers. Today’s haul will be deposited in the Treasury.

The cash had been kept in neat piles. Amounts varying between Rs 1.61 crore and Rs 1.64 crore had been kept in each of the lockers. The money was primarily in bundles of Rs 500 notes. The lockers were bigger in size than the normal lockers. A special room within the room for the normal lockers has a row where large lockers are located.

The Vigilance Department will also focus on other bank lockers of Sidhu following a tip-off by Jagman Singh, an accomplice in his misdeeds, who was arrested yesterday.

The focus of the Department will now be on people who have secured jobs by paying bribes to Sidhu. Last night, special teams were formed to probe the links of people who may have paid money to secure jobs. Sources said that people who have paid such huge sums to get jobs have to be from well-off families.

The IG Vigilance, Mr A.P. Pandey, when asked by mediapersons, said people who have paid to secure jobs could be prosecuted under law. It would depend upon the evidence gathered during investigation. Even the role of the Secretary of the PPSC, Mr Prithipal Singh, would be looked into. Four touts of Sidhu had absconded, Mr Pandey said.

Meanwhile, the SP, Vigilance, Mr Jaskaran Singh, confirmed that Rs 1 crore had been sent to Luxembourg in Europe through hawala channels. This morning, the Vigilance Department descended on the bank armed with court orders to break open the lockers. In the seven-hour operation, the team broke open the lockers located in the basement using a drill. Four lockers are in the name of Sidhu’s brother Preetinder Singh and his wife who live in the USA. One locker is in the name of Sidhu’s mother.



Role of banks under scrutiny
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Sleuths of the Punjab Vigiilance Department raid bank lockers of PPSC Chairman Ravi Sidhu in Chandigarh on Friday. — PTI photo

Chandigarh, April 19
Investigations and recoveries made by the Vigilance Bureau in the Ravi Sidhu case have raised serious doubts about the role and functioning of banks, especially in the private sector, as the conduct of some of the bank officials has not been free from “suspicion” and “unlawful conduct”. Certain bankers may land in the Vigilance net and face action in the Sidhu case.

All five lockers opened at the local branch of Indus Ind Bank on Madhya Marg today to recover “unaccounted Rs 8.16 crore in cash”, had been in the “unauthorised possession” of the PPSC Chairman and his alleged accomplices for varying periods of time.

The Vigilance Bureau is yet to obtain legal sanction to open the remaining three lockers, one of which is in the other branch of Indus Ind Bank. The remaining two are in Punjab and Sind Bank, one each in Sector 9 and Sector 22.

The Vigilance Bureau is also investigating the possibility of investments in immovable property outside Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, and Himachal Pradesh besides the Union Territory of Chandigarh. The investigators have got leads on the possible investments in real estate in Mumbai, Bangalore and a few other places. But these are yet to be verified.

Investigations reveal that the Indus Ind lockers were put at the disposal of Jagman Singh, a key figure in the “corruption expose” case, some time in 1999. Two of these lockers were regularised only in July, 2001, and the remaining three were “legally” allotted to their present clients in February this year.

The “clandestine use” of the lockers is in serious violation of the banking and safe deposit norms.

It is not only a question of “unauthorised possession of lockers” but also their operation which was conducted by Jagman Singh alone in the names of the “rightful allottees”. This , feel the investigators, was not possible without the active involvement and consent of the bank officials concerned.

Further, the bank allegedly opened accounts in the names of Ranjit Singh, Jarnail Singh, Inder Singh and Ashwani Kumar without these persons ever visiting the bank. All this was done in the handwriting of Jagman Singh who confessed he used to “operate these accounts” on his own.

“My only interest was to get some financial limits against these accounts,” he is alleged to have told the investigators.

For example, the opening and operation of the accounts in the names of Ravi Sidhu’s brother and sister-in-law were perhaps done when they were probably not in India. The disappearance of Reetinder Singh Sidhu immediately after he filed a habeas corpus petition in the Punjab and Haryana High Court is “baffling”. There is also no information about the whereabouts of Mrs Pritpal Kaur, alias Mrs Gurcharan Singh, the mother of the PPSC Chairman.

The last-minute withdrawals from banks on March 26 by Jagman Singh, feel the investigators, was a “foolish and hasty step” as the statement for a particular banking period would have provided details about the money in the account at a particular point of time. “This was a panicky step,” feel the investigators.

The Vigilance men may be on the trail of some of the key bank officials whose conduct has been “suspicious” in the entire episode beginning in 1999. These banks are not the first ones to figure on the “doubtful list” as in the past there have been instances when in another major corruption case pertaining to the Chandigarh Administration, a contractor was allegedly operating 20-odd accounts which he had “fictitiously opened” in another Sector 8 private bank.

In one case, the account remained “operational” for some years even after the death of the account holder in an “accident”.

“We are looking into the role of bankers in the Sidhu case,” remarked a senior Vigilance official.


Sidhu alleges torture in jail
Tribune Reporters

Ropar, April 19
Punjab Public Service Commission Chairman Ravinder Pal Singh Sidhu has alleged physical and mental torture in jail. In an application moved in the court of the Additional Sessions and Special Judge, Ropar, Mr Sidhu said that being a postgraduate and an income tax payee he was entitled to a better-class jail. However, he alleged that he was not being given this facility and was being tortured despite his ill health. He demanded that the Superintendent of the jail should be directed to provide him B-class facilities in the jail.

In another application, he alleged that he was suffering from serious ailments like diabetes and hypertension. He demanded that the Superintendent of the jail should be ordered to get him examined immediately by the jail doctor and then at the PGI, Chandigarh.

The judge, after a prolonged deliberation on the arguments of the counsel of Ravi Sidhu, passed an order stating that the jail Superintendent “may” provide B-class facilities to Ravi Sidhu. In response to the second application of Ravi Sidhu, the judge directed the jail Superintendent to provide proper medical treatment to Ravi Sidhu in jail and said he “may” be allowed to continue treatment at any of the specialised institutes in which he was undergoing treatment earlier.

The counsel of Sidhu, however, pleaded that he should he allowed treatment at the PGI. They sought the deletion of the word “may” from the judgement on the plea that it left the discretion of the implementation of order with the jail authorities.

The judge, however, declined to amend the orders.

Earlier, the Add ional Sessions-cum-Special Judge, Ropar, extended the judicial remand of Ravi Sidhu till May 2.

In another development, the anticipatory bail of an alleged agent of Ravi Sidhu, Shamsher Singh of Panchkula, was also rejected. He had moved an application for anticipatory bail in the court of the Sessions Judge.

KHARAR: Mr Roshan Lal Chouhan, Judicial Magistrate, on Friday remanded Jagman Singh, an accomplice of Ravi Sidhu arrested by the Vigilance Department after the recovery of Rs 1.2 crore from his possession, in police remand till April 20. The court also ordered that the accused should be produced in the same court at 11 a.m. on April 20.

The Public Prosecutor, Mr Jatinder Pal Singh Punn, Mr Surjeet Singh Khosa (DSP, Vigilance) and Mr Onkar Singh Mitha (Inspector, Vigilance) appeared in the court and demanded a two-day police remand for the accused. They informed the court that the amount was placed with the accused by the brother of Ravi Sidhu after his arrest and this amount was recovered from the residence of the accused in Chandigarh. They pleaded that more information was yet to be collected from the accused about the other transactions concerning Ravi Sidhu.

The court offered services of a lawyer to the accused, but he refused and told the court that he wanted to help the investigation voluntarily.

The Public Prosecutor moved an application in the court seeking permission to deposit this amount in the government treasury as the police did not have proper arrangements for keeping such a big amount.

The court ordered that this amount should be deposited on April 20 in the State Bank of Patiala, Kharar branch, in the court account.Back

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