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Huge wheat subsidy scam; Bonn, Cremica in the dock
Vimal Sumbly/Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 5
The chairman of the Punjab Mandi Board Ajmer Singh Lakhowal today claimed to have unearthed a major financial scam worth about Rs 25 crore involving two Ludhiana food-processing units, Bonn Breads and Cremica Foods.

Lakhowal said the Food Corporation of India had supplied wheat to the two companies at a susidised rate of Rs 4.15 per kg for manufacturing bread and biscuits to be supplied to the United Nations for the World Food Programme (WFP). However, Lakhowal alleged, they sold the wheat directly in the open market at a rate between Rs 9-11 per kg.

Lakhowal, who was here today, said he had personally conducted raids on the premises of the two manufacturing units on April 14 last and seized important documents related to the transaction. He said the two units had bought the wheat in January and sold it off in the open market during the same month.

He said he had already submitted a detailed report to Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, who had ordered an inquiry into the matter. He added that various legal options were being examined to proceed against the two companies.

Lakhowal said the FCI had supplied 13,000 tonnes of wheat to Bonn Breads and 30,000 tonnes to Cremica Foods at a highly subsidised rate of Rs 415 per quintal. These firms were to supply bread and biscuits for the UNís World Food Programme. However, instead of manufacturing bread and biscuits, they allegedly sold it in the open market within a few days of the purchase for double or more than the double price.

However, one of the directors of Cremica Foods, Ajay Bector, denied the charges and said the Government of India had supplied the wheat to them in lieu of the biscuits they had already supplied to the WFP of the United Nations. He said it was long, foolproof and transparent process and that they had supplied the biscuits only after applying through UN tenders. The products were checked at multiple levels for quality and other specifications before the UN accepted them, he added. He claimed that there were other companies too that got the wheat from the government after supplying biscuits to the UN.

Director of Bonn Breads Manjit Singh said as they had got a huge quantity of wheat, they sold some of it in the market. This, he claimed, was done in a transparent manner. He also said under the World Food Programme, the United Nations invites tenders for the supply of biscuits and since the rates they quoted were the lowest, they got the orders.

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