ED Raids Punjab Excise Commissioner, Ferozepur DC In Rs 137 Cr Guava Orchards Compensation Scam

Chandigarh: The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Wednesday conducted raids at 20 locations across Punjab, including the residences of the state excise and taxation commissioner Varun Roojam in Chandigarh and deputy commissioner Rajesh Dhiman in Ferozepur, in connection with a money-laundering case related to the Rs 137 crore guava orchard compensation scam.

The ED registered a case after it took cognizance of a First Information Report (FIR) filed by the Punjab Vigilance Bureau (VB) pertaining to embezzlement of Rs 137 crore released as compensation for guava orchards on land acquired by the Greater Mohali Area Development Authority (GMADA) at Bakarpur village.

The VB had registered the case under Sections 409, 420, 465, 466, 468, 471, 120-B of the Indian Penal Code and Sections 13(1) (a), 13(2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act in Mohali on May 2, 2023.

Jasmine Kaur Dhiman, the wife of Rajesh Dhiman, is mentioned as a beneficiary who got a handsome compensation wrongfully in lieu of the land acquired by GMADA at Bakarpur village. Varun Roojam, allegedly had invested in the orchard through his family members on the persuasion of Rajesh Dhiman, the then additional chief administrator (ACA) of GMADA.

While the raids were on, incriminating documents were found dumped in a garbage bin near Roojam’s house, a senior directorate official confirmed. “We had sought records pertaining to the scam from GMADA as the Sections invoked under the IPC and the Prevention of Corruption Act are scheduled offences under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act,” an ED official said.

“The accused colluded with officials of the state horticulture and land revenue departments, wrongfully obtaining compensation for guava orchards from the government for which they were not entitled. There are more than 100 beneficiaries who were wrongfully compensated from 2016-20,” an official said.

As per the VB FIR, Bhupinder Singh, a Bakarpur resident and a property dealer, colluded with officials/employees from GMADA, revenue and horticulture departments, together with his colleagues Mukesh Jindal and Vikas Bhandari initiating the planting of guava orchards on the agriculture land by obtaining land through general power of attorney.

The VB probe also revealed that the accused had prepared fake revenue documents.
Bhupinder Singh, the main accused, took a compensation of Rs 23.79 crore for guava plantations for himself and his family, while Dhiman’s wife was paid a compensation of Rs 1.17 crore. Mukesh Jindal of Bathinda took a compensation of Rs 13.93 crore, while Patiala-based chartered accountant Anil Arora was paid Rs 1.14 crore as compensation.

The VB has arrested Jaspreet Singh Sidhu, the horticulture development officer, who was then posted at Kharar and Dera Bassi, in January this year.

The Punjab and Haryana High Courts, in September 2023, ordered the accused beneficiaries to deposit a total of Rs 72.36 crore of which Rs 43.72 crore has been returned till January 30 this year.

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