Punjab minister grilled in dirty money probe

(MENAFN- Gulf Times) Punjab's powerful Revenue Minister Bikram Singh Majithia was yesterday questioned by enforcement directorate (ED) officials for over four hours with regard to money-laundering links in a multi-million-rupee international synthetic drugs racket busted last year.

Majithia, who is the younger brother of union Food Processing Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal, faces allegations of having links with certain non-resident Indians (NRIs) who have been accused of international money laundering related to the massive drugs racket.

Majithia arrived at the regional office of the ED in Jalandhar, 150km from Chandigarh, around 10.30am and remained inside for over four hours.

Jalandhar police rounded up several activists of students organisation Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), who had gathered near the ED office to protest against Majithia.

ED sources said Majithia was questioned over certain links with the NRIs.

"I want the truth to come out. I am ready to co-operate with any agency so that they can get to the bottom of this drugs racket," Majithia told media after coming out from the grilling.

The ED, a wing under the union finance ministry, had sent summons to Majithia, who is the revenue minister in the Parkash Singh Badal-led government in Punjab, to appear before it on December 26.

Punjab Police had busted the Rs60bn international synthetic drugs racket in the state in 2013. The ED conducted separate investigations in the drug racket case after serious allegations of money laundering emerged.

Majithia's name figured in the racket after the main accused in the drugs case, Jagdish Singh Bhola, a former police officer, alleged he was linked to the racket.

Majithia is also the brother-in-law of Punjab Deputy Chief Minister and Shiromani Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal (Harsimrat's husband).

He is considered very powerful in Punjab's ruling circles due to his proximity to Sukhbir Badal.

There have been demands from various quarters for Majithia's resignation on moral grounds after he was recently summoned by the ED.

Chief Minister Badal, however, ruled out Majithia's resignation.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which has been running an alliance government with the Akali Dal in Punjab since 2007, has also left the Badal government and the Akali Dal embarrassed after it sought Majithia's resignation this week.

The ED summons to Majithia was an embarrassment for the Badal government as the central government is BJP-led and Harsimrat Badal is the Akali Dal representative in it.

Though Majithia's name started figuring in the racket last year, when the Congress-led UPA government was in power at the Centre, the summons were finally sent by the ED only now after the BJP government came to power.

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