The ED on Thursday questioned former Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda in connection with a money laundering case related to the allotment of a plot in Panchkula to the Associated Journals Limited (AJL) in an “illegal” manner, official sources said.?
The sources had earlier said that the questioning was conducted in connection with an alleged land grab case in Manesar in Haryana. Hooda was grilled in Chandigarh for over four hours and his statement was registered under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), they said.?
He is expected to be questioned again Friday, they added. The plot in Panchkula, registered at no C-17 in Sector-6, was attached by the Enforcement Directorate in December last year. AJL is reportedly controlled by senior Congress leaders, including members of the Gandhi family. The group runs the National Herald newspaper.?
The ED probe had found that Hooda, as the then Haryana chief minister, “misused his official position by dishonestly and fraudulently allotting the said plot to AJL afresh in the guise of re-allotment at rates prevalent in 1982 (Rs 91 per sqm) plus interest despite the fact that the cancellation of allotment of the plot had earlier attained finality and it could not legally be re-allotted.”
The agency had said that the re-allotment of the plot in 2005 “unjustly benefitted” AJL.
It said its probe found that Hooda “granted undue extensions thrice to M/s AJL for construction of the said plot and after acquisition of the said plot projected it as untainted property and further acquired loans from the bank by way of mortgaging the same from tie to time”.
The CBI charge sheet, filed in a Panchkula court on December 1 last year, named Congress leader Motilal Vora besides Hooda in connection with the alleged irregularities in the case. According to the ED, the value of the land was Rs 64.93 crore while it was allotted by Hooda for 69.39 lakh.
The case pertains to the plot allotted to AJL in Panchkula in 1982 for the publication of Hindi newspaper ‘Nav Jivan’ on which no construction took place till 1992. The Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA) then took back possession of the plot.
The ED had filed a PMLA complaint in this case in 2016 based on a CBI FIR, which had taken over investigation in this case at the request of the BJP government of Haryana, and the criminal FIRs filed by the Haryana vigilance bureau.