Explained: What is the money laundering case against Bhupinder Singh Hooda?

The prosecution complaint pertains to allocation of 14 industrial plots in 2013, worth Rs 30.34 crore, allegedly to the acquaintances of then chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda.

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has recently filed a prosecution complaint against Haryana’s former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda and 21 others under Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 (PMLA) in Panchkula’s industrial plot allotment case.

What is the prosecution complaint that ED has filed?

The prosecution complaint pertains to allocation of 14 industrial plots in 2013, worth Rs 30.34 crore, allegedly to the acquaintances of then chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda. The ED has said its investigations revealed that “as a result of criminal conspiracy, the then Chief Minister and ex-officio Chairman, Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA), four retired IAS officers and other office bearers of HUDA, illegally benefited pre-selected acquaintances of the then CM by allotting them 14 industrial plots, denying allotment to more worthy applicants.

Apart from Hooda, four retired IAS officers – Dharam Pal Singh Nagal (the then Chief Administrator, HUDA), Surjit Singh (the then Administrator, HUDA), Subhash Chandra Kansal (the then Chief Controller of Finance, HUDA), Narinder Kumar Solanki (the then Zonal Administrator, Faridabad Zone, HUDA) – and another HUDA official, Bharat Bhushan Taneja (the then Superintendent, HUDA), and all the 14 allottees and beneficiaries of the industrial plots have been involved in the commission of the offence of money laundering.

It added, “The price fixed for the allotment was kept 4-5 times below circle rate and 7-8 times below the market rate. The criteria for allotment was altered 18 days after the last date of application and when all the applicant data was in possession of HUDA. Criteria was altered in such a way to favour the pre-selected applicants by increasing the discretion at the hands of the interview committee. The entire interview process was vitiated and compromised as no formal record of marks allocation was kept”.

“Hence, worthy applicants were driven out of merit and applicants who were closely connected to Bhupinder Singh Hooda, in terms of his personal capacity and also in terms of the political party he belongs to, were allotted these plots”, the prosecution complaint reads.

What was the difference in prices at which the plots were allotted and the market price?

The plots, which varied from 496 sq mtr to 1280 sq mtrs, are located in Panchkula’s Industrial Area, Phase-1 and at the time of allotment cost Rs 64 lakh for 1280 sq m and Rs 31.74 lakh for 496 sq m. The market price of a 1,280 sq m plot in the area was around Rs 6 crore at the time. Under the rules of the allotment, those who were given the plots were also allowed to sell, gift or mortgage them with the permission of HUDA, after paying the allotment amount.

Who are these beneficiaries and how were they related to Bhupinder Singh Hooda?

Among the beneficiaries who were allotted industrial plots included son of then chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda’s secretary, daughter-in-law of his Officer on Special Duty (OSD), son of a close aide, widow of his close aide, relatives of two Congress leaders and daughter-in-law of a Punjab and Haryana High Court judge.

How did ED get into this case?

The ED initiated investigation on the basis of an FIR filed on December 19, 2015 by the State Vigilance Bureau. The said FIR was transferred to the CBI. The ED subsequently initiated investigations into the same case considering apprehensions of money laundering in the contentious allotment of coveted industrial plots.

What is the current status of these industrial plots?

All 14 industrial plots stand attached as per the provisions of PMLA, 2002 by the Enforcement Directorate in August 2019 and the attachment was confirmed by the PMLA Adjudicating Authority in February 2020. No activity is taking place on all such industrial plots.

What does the case mean for Bhupinder Singh Hooda?

Besides the money laundering case, Hooda is facing several other cases that pertain to corruption during his decade-long stint as chief minister. Various cases are being probed by the CBI and the ED. Considering the cases that are already in advance stages, the troubles are mounting for the senior Congress leader. In the current scenario, Congress – the main opposition party in Haryana – is mounting extreme pressure on the ruling BJP-JJP alliance. A prosecution complaint, in layman’s terms, can be considered as a kind of chargesheet that the investigating agency (ED in this case) has filed in the court. Hooda and other accused will be facing trial on the basis of the investigation that ED has conducted so far and mentioned in the prosecution complaint. Hooda, however, has denied all the charges against him in the prosecution complaint and told The Indian Express that “it was just a prosecution complaint and he shall contest it in the court of law”. He also termed the ED’s action against him as “political vendetta”.

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