Srinagar: Proceeding with its investigations into two multi-crore scandals, the CBI has seized some crucial evidence, besides cash worth Rs 20 lakh, in a series of raids on the residences of the former Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik’s aides.
Some of Malik’s aides, six chartered accountants and at least two Ministers of Mehbooba Mufti’s PDP-BJP government, have surfaced among the suspects who facilitated the allotment of two particular contracts to two companies.
While contracts for the two projects were initiated and processed by the PDP-BJP coalition in 2017-18, these were subsequently allotted during the Governor’s rule in 2018-19. However, both the allotments were cancelled by Malik when allegations of “high level corruption” and irregularities in issuing the allotments and fixing of rates poured in from several quarters.
On Wednesday, CBI conducted a series of raids in Delhi on the residences and offices of six chartered accountants in Delhi who are known to have fudged documents including balance sheets of some particular companies to make them eligible to apply for certain government projects in Jammu and Kashmir. They included Sanjay Narang at Daryaganj, Rounak Aggarwal at Preet Vihar, Anil Kumar at Shakarpur, Anita Singh at South West Delhi, HM Company, Daryaganj and M/s Hingo and Company, Dariyagunj.
Those whose residences were searched also included the former J&K Governor Satya Pal Malik’s aide, Sunak Bali, in Delhi and BJP leader Dr Priyanka Choudhary at Barmer and Jaipur in Rajasthan. Choudhary, reportedly close to Malik, is said to have contested the Lok Sabha elections of 2014 unsuccessfully.
Sunak Bali, reportedly Malik’s distant relative, served as his Press Secretary, albeit without any order of appointment by the Government, when Malik was Governor of Jammu and Kashmir in 2018-19. Sources say that two of Bali’s residences were searched at Defence Colony and West End in New Delhi.
Others whose offices and houses were searched by CBI included Virender Singh Rana and Kanwar Singh Rana of West Delhi, who had been appointed by Malik as his Public Relations Officer and Personal Assistant, respectively. All the eight persons whose premises were searched on Wednesday, have been asked to appear at CBI’s Jammu office for questioning in the next two or three days.
Well-placed sources said that Wednesday’s searches were regarding the allotment of a Rs 2,200 crore contract of the civil works of Kiru Hydroelectric Power Project at Kishtwar in Jammu in favour of an ineligible company. The chartered accountants under scanner had allegedly manipulated the company’s income tax returns and balance sheets to fraudulently make it eligible to bid for the projects.
“Some of those whose houses and offices were searched today had close access to the Raj Bhawan in Jammu as well as Srinagar when Malik was the Governor”, an official source asserted. According to him, the searches were carried out on the basis of digital evidence, communications between the accused and analysis of their bank transactions.
The CBI Jammu is investigating two FIRs registered in connection with corruption charges including power projects and employees insurance. While Wednesday’s raids were in connection with the Kiru power project, some of the accused, including a former Finance Minister, and a former Principal Secretary of Finance, have been questioned on fixing of criteria for competitors, advertising the insurance scheme through a small notification in a national daily rather than e-tendering and other related issues.
Malik’s statement was recorded in October 2022 after his retirement as Governor of Meghalaya. Previously he had served as Governor of Bihar, Jammu & Kashmir and Goa. On 28 April, 2023, CBI questioned Malik at his home for about five hours regarding his claim that he had been offered bribes worth Rs 300 crore if he did not cancel the two allotments.
These two particular cases were assigned to the CBI for thorough investigations by J&K’s incumbent Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha in 2022.
Subsequently, CBI filed FIR in the Kiru Hydroelectric Power Project in April 2022 for criminal conspiracy. Former Principal Secretary Finance and Power Navin Choudhary, who also functioned as Chairman of Chenab Valley Power Projects Ltd (CVPPPL), MS Babu, then Managing Director of CVPPPL and MK Mittal and Arun Kumar Mishra, then Directors of CVPPPL and Patel Engineering Ltd were named as accused in the Kiru scam.
The FIR on the employees’ insurance scam states: “Unknown officials of Finance Department of Government of Jammu and Kashmir by abusing their official position in conspiracy and connivance with Trinity Reinsurance Brokers Ltd, Reliance General Insurance Company Ltd and other unknown public servants and private persons have committed the offences of criminal conspiracy and criminal misconduct,” reads
They caused pecuniary advantage to themselves and wrongful loss to state exchequer during the period 2017 and 2018 and thereby in this manner cheated the Government of Jammu and Kashmir”, it alleged.
In its second FIR pertaining to the alleged malpractices in the award of contract for the civil works package of Kiru hydroelectric power project, the CBI said guidelines related to e-tendering were not followed. The case was registered on allegations of malpractices in the award of the contract of civil works of Kiru Hydroelectric Power Project to a private company in 2019.
“Though a decision was taken in the 47th Board meeting of CVPPPL for re-tender through e-tendering with the reverse auction after the cancellation of the ongoing tendering process, the same was not implemented (as per the decision taken in the 48th board meeting) and the tender was finally awarded to Patel Engineering Ltd,” the FIR alleged.