States

How CBI And E.D. Zeroed On Veerbhadra Singh

Exclusive details by THE CORRESPONDENT…

There is no doubt about the popularity of  Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh in the region but tough days are on the way for him.Virbhadra is always in the news for wrong region as far as corruption is concerned,when he was Union Minister for Steal his name figured in a dairy where kickbacks were paid to one name VBS.But the investigative agency could not pin point him.Later on when disproportionate case was put on him ,the agencies got some facts in his documents and on the basis of theses documents,the raids were conducted on him.

The CBI  RC AC-1 2015 A-0004 registered against Veerbhadra Singh  under Section 13(2)r/w 13(1) (e) of the Prevention of Corruption Act,

He and his family have acquired assets disproportionate to their known sources of income during the tenure Union Minister of State from 28.05.2009 to 18.01.2011, and the Union Minister of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) from 19.01.2011 to 26.06.2012 in the Government of India i.e. from 28.05.2009 to 26.06.2012..

According to the documents ,in November 2010, the Income Tax Authorities conducted raids at several offices of ISPAT Industries Ltd. (M/s IIL), wherein documents were allegedly seized in relation to cash transactions allegedly undertaken by the said company. Apparently, these documents revealed that members of M/s IIL had illegally paid amounts to officials of State Trading Corporation (STC). On receiving information from the Income Tax Authorities, the first PE was registered by the CBI on 19.10.2012 against unknown officials of State Trading Corporation and M/s IIL to enquire into the matters revealed from the discovery of documents seized during the aforesaid raids conducted by the Income Tax (Intelligence)-I, New Delhi on 30.11.2010.

FIRST PRELIMNARY REPORT

A source information has been received that Income Tax (Intelligence) - I, New Delhi, conducted a raid on the official premises of M/s Ispat Industries Limited and Group Companies (M/s IIL), room No. 312-317, Ashoka Hotel, Chanakya Puri, New Delhi on 30.11.2010. On the basis of documents seized from the office of M/s IIL it is alleged that the following illegal payments were shown made against the names of Shri C.M.Kalra, STC and Mr. Abhishek, STC by M/s IIL to the officials of State Trading Corporation:-

     Sl. No. Date             Particulars                  Payment

                                                           (In Rs.)

     1         17.09.2009     Amt. paid to Mr. (K) at STC 30,000,00

     2         28.04.2009     Amt. paid to CM Kalra STC 50,000,00

     3         29.04.2009     Amt. paid to CM Kalra STC 41,75,000

     4         30.04.2009     Amt. paid to Mr. Abhishek of 60,000

                              STC

     5         24.03.2009     Amt. paid to Mr. Abhishek 50,000

                              STC

     6         04.06.2010     Amt. paid to Mr. Abhishek 75,000

                              STC

 

It is alleged that the business transactions relating to M/s IIL were being handled by Hydrocarbon Division in the State Trading Corporation of India Ltd. Shri C.M.Kalra was working as Chief Manager in the Hydrocarbon Division during the relevant period and Shri Abhishek was working as Assistant Manager in the said Division.

It is also informed by the reliable sources that M/s IIL has been merged with JSW Ispat Steel Ltd. w.e.f. 05.04.2011, Branch Office located at Bhikaji Kama Place, New Delhi and Head Office at Grade Palladium, 6th Floor, 175, CST Rd., Kalina Santacruz (East), Mumbai.

The above information revealed misconduct on the part of unknown officials of STC and unknown officials of M/s Ispat Industries Limited (now JSW Ispat Steel Ltd.). Therefore, a Preliminary Enquiry is registered to enquire into this matter and entrusted to Shri Ram Singh, Dy. SP/CBI/AC- II(Attached with AC-1), New Delhi."

Any how Veerbhadra names did not figure in the said First PE in any context whatsoever.

Later a complaint dated 11.01.2013 regarding illegal payments made to officers of STC and other influential persons by M/s IIL was filed by Mr. Prashant Bhushan, Advocate, with the CBI as well as the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC). In this complaint, he sought to link up the entries shown in the excel sheet seized by the Income Tax Authorities (from M/s IIL) - which showed payment of Rs. 2.77 crore to one 'VBS',

A similar complaint was also filed by the NGO "Common Cause" on 16.08.2013 with the CBI and the CVC making the same allegations as Mr. Prashant Bhushan, Advocate. It was also alleged that Veerbhadra Singh  while serving as the Union Minster of Steel during 2009-2011 had invested his ill-gotten income through one Anand Chauhan - an agent of Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) in purchasing LIC policies in his name and in the name of his family members, and attempted to legitamise his ill-gotten income as agricultural income by filing revised income tax returns.

A Public Interest Litigation (PIL), titled, 'Common Cause Vs. UOI and others', vide WP(C) No. 7240 of 2013 ('Common Cause PIL') was filed before this Court, seeking a Writ of Mandamus directing the CBI and the Director General of Income Tax to initiate an investigation under the supervision of Court into the charges of money laundering, corruption, possession of disproportionate assets, criminal misconduct etc. against theVeerbhadra Singh . In the said writ petition filed by Mr. Prashant Bhushan, he relied upon his allegations contained in his complaint dated 11.01.2013 to the CBI and CVC. He also urged that in order to explain his unaccounted wealth, Veerbhadra Singh filed revised income tax returns for the assessment years 2009-10, 2010-11 and 2011-12 showing an increase of agricultural income which was 30-fold, 18-fold and 6-fold respectively in the three years in question.

In the aforesaid PIL, on 27.11.2013, learned counsel representing CBI submitted that an inquiry is being conducted in a similar matter. The CBI was directed to file a status report within six weeks. On 12.03.2014, the Division Bench took note of the fact that a status report had been filed by the CBI in a sealed cover. On 02.04.2014, the status report filed in a sealed cover was opened by the Court and perused. Apparently, the said report is dated 07.02.2014. The Court in its order, inter alia, recorded:

"The report in sealed cover, which was furnished by the learned counsel for the CBI, has been seen. It is a report dated 07.02.2014. According to the learned counsel appearing for the CBI, several other steps have been taken in the preliminary enquiry which do not form part of the said report. He submits that a further upto date status report shall be filed before the next date of hearing."

The Court also directed the CBI that the preliminary inquiry be sped up, and be taken to its logical conclusion expeditiously.

On 06.08.2014, the CBI sought six weeks time to complete the preliminary enquiry. However, the court declined the said request. The matter was directed to be listed on 20.08.2014. The Income Tax Department was directed to place before the court the entire record, including the report of the investigation held against the respondent no.5/petitioner no.1 herein. The report put up by the CBI in sealed covers were directed to be placed in the safe custody of the Deputy Registrar (Writs) for perusal of the Court.

On 01.09.2014, the CBI filed the final status report in a sealed cover, which was taken on record. It appears that on 10.09.2014, the status reports filed by the CBI and the investigation report submitted by the Income Tax Department were perused by the Court and again placed in sealed covers. They were directed to be kept with the Deputy Registrar (Writs) for safe custody.

Veerbhadra Singh challenged the very maintainability of the writ petition as a PIL on the ground that Mr. Prashant Bhushan, Advocate, bore personal animosity towards him. On 29.01.2015, the Court, without going into the issue of bona fides of the petitioner Common Cause, or of Mr. Prashant Bhushan, Advocate, discharged the petitioner therein and instead, appointed two learned counsels as Amicus Curiae to assist the Court in the matter.

the matter was adjourned on three occasions i.e. 14.05.2015, 28.07.2015, and 06.08.2015. It appears that, in the meantime, the second PE came to be registered on 17.06.2015. This second PE dated 17.06.2015, pertained to fixing of an appropriate check period and accounting for the incomes, assets and expenditure of Shri Vir Bhadra Singh - petitioner no.1, and to examine whether, or not, a viable disproportionate assets (DA) case is made out against him during the period when he was a Union Minister in the Government of India.

The Second PE narrates that the First PE was registered on 19.10.2012 on the complaint of CVO, State Trading Corporation (STC) against the unknown officials of STC and M/s IIL and others. It records that the CVO, STC made the complaint in the light of report of Income Tax Authorities regarding recovery of computer print out from the office of M/s IIL, mentioning about alleged payments to different individuals including, STC officials. The Second PE also narrates the filing of the complaint by Mr. Prashant Bhushan, Advocate, Veerbhadra Singh , which was also made part of the enquiry.

SECOND PRELIMNARY ENQUIRY REPORT BY CBI

The allegations raised in this complaint were the acronym "VBS" to whom payment has been shown in the computer printout referred to Shri Vir Bhadra Singh, the then Union Minister of Steel. The complaint further alleged that Shri Vir Bhadra Singh while serving as Union Minister of Steel during 2009-2011 had invested his ill-gotten income through Shri Anand Chauhan, an agent of LIC, in LIC policies. In his own name, that of his wife Smt. Pratibha Singh, son Shri Vikramaditya Singh and daughter Ms. Aparajita Kumari by showing the same as agricultural income. This was done by entering into a Memorandum of Understanding dated 15.06.2008 with Anand Chauhan for a period of three years. Shri Anand Chauhan deposited roughly Rs. 5 crores cash in his PNB account in Shimla and debited the same through cheques for purchasing various LIC policies in the names of Shri Vir Bhadra Singh, Mrs. Pratibha Singh (w/o Shri Vir Bhadra Singh); son Shri Vikramaditya Singh and daughter Ms. Aparajita Kumari. It was further alleged that later Shri Vir Bhadra Singh attempted to legitimize his ill-gotten money as agriculture income by filing revised ITRs in the year 2012. Enquiry in this regard revealed that a. That Shri Vir Bhadra Singh entered into an agreement with Shri Anand Chauhan on 15.06.2008 with respect to management of his apple orchard, named Srikhand Orchard located at Damrali, Tehsil Rampur, Shimla. This agreement, which was valid for 3 years (with extension clause), provided that proceeds of income from this orchard will be invested by Shri Anand Chauhan in various government securities and LIC policies @ 2% commission of the total income.

2. That for the same apple orchard, one Shri Bishamber Das also entered into an agreement with Shri Thakur Ram Asre, Advocate in the year 2008. Payment from sale proceeds @ Rs. 10.50 lacs for this orchard was allegedly made by Shri Bishambhar Das to Shri Vir Bhadra Singh in cash. In respect of this agreement too, apart from photocopy of the agreement, no other details regarding expenditure, sale and payments etc. could be made available by the individuals concerned. c. That Shri Anand Chauhan claimed to have sold apples of this orchard mainly to M/s Universal Apple Associate (UAA), Parwanoo, Himachal Pradesh. According to him, he collected payments from M/s UAA in cash and then deposited the same in his bank accounts at PNB and HDFC. During the period 2009-10, this money was used by him to purchase LIC policies in the names of Shri Virbhadra Singh, his wife and son, in 2011-12, however, the sale proceeds were used for construction of house of Shri Vir Bhadra Singh at Rampur. No documentary evidence in support of the sale proceeds of the year 2011-12 could be made available by Shri Anand Chauhan or anyone else.

Details of accounts of Srikhand orchard submitted by Shri Anand Chauhan for the period 2008-11 reflect a net profit of Rs. 6,09,92,500/- from sale of apples to M/s Universal Apple Associates, Parwanoo, but Shri Anand Chauhan could not produce bills, vouchers or any other evidence or expenditure incurred by him, in respect of purchase of pesticides and insecticides towards maintenance of Srikhand Orchard, Damrali between 2008-11.

3. Huge cash deposits have been shown by Shri Anand Chauhan in his bank account at PNB on such dates, which do not tally with the dates on which M/s Universal Apple Associates has allegedly made the cash payments to him, for purchase of apples. Shri Chauhan was not able to logically explain this issue. Further, on their part, M/s Universal Apple Associates, Parwanoo have paid such huge amounts in the form of cash, against the spirit of the business market, which creates suspicion about the veracity of these transactions.

4. There are three credit entries dated 17.08.2008 in the book of account of M/s UAA totalling Rs. 93 lakhs in the name of Srikhand Orchard recording payment to Shri Anand Chauhan. No other detail in respect of his transaction apart from the amount has been mentioned in the said credit entry. Thus, within a period of two months of agreement between Shri Anand Chauhan and Shri Virbhadra Singh, the sale proceeds of said apple orchard reached approximately Rs. 93 lakhs. No justification could be provided, either by Shri Anand Chauhan or M/s UAA, in respect of this highly suspicious circumstance.

5. Registration numbers of some of the vehicles mentioned in the record of M/s Universal Apple Associates, Parwanoo, which allegedly transported apples from Srikhand Orchard to their premises, either do not exist or are light motor vehicles like cars or two wheelers. h. The documents made available by Shri Anand Chauhan relating to transportation of apples from Srikhand Orchard, Damrali to M/s UAA, Parwanoo between the years 2008 to 2010-11, are in the form of affidavits submitted by the transporters. One of the transporters admitted having made available his vehicle, as well as those of his two acquaintances to Shri Anand Chauhan. i. Entries of the register maintained at Excise and Taxation Department Check Post at Koti, Shimla-Parwanoo Road, during the period of 2010-12 revealed that the vehicles mentioned in the record of M/s Universal Apple Associates (UAA) in which apples were allegedly transported to Parwanoo from Srikhand Orchard, had not crossed through this check post during the relevant period.

6. The bills provided by M/s Universal Apple Associates and those submitted by Shri Anand Chauhan pertaining to Srikhand Orchard for the period 2019, prima facie appear to be different as the former do not contain any reference of the vehicle numbers. Further, both these bills are printed on different types of printers (dot matrix and laser jet respectively). This, in turn, points towards fabrication of records in order to prepare a defence by the suspect.

7. As per APMC Act, M/s Universal Apple Associates informed the sale details and its price to the concerned Mandi Samiti. This data is not in consonance with that provided by M/s Universal Apple Associates to CBI. This again points to fabrication of records.

8. Data collected from Department of Horticulture, Govt. of Himachal Pradesh, in regard to the production of apples in Rampur Tehsil of Distt. Shimla (where Srikhand Orchard, Damrall is located) does not reflect improved/increased production of apples in that region in the year 2008-09 to 2010-11.

9.. That Sri Virbhadra Singh has filed his ITRs regularly for the Assessment Years 2006-07 to 2012-13, but for the Assessment Years 2009-10, 2010-11 and 2011-12, he has also filed revised Income Tax Returns. In the revised ITRs, huge illegible in agricultural income was shown (it is important to note that he was also Union Steel Minister from May, 2009 to January, 2011. Details of agriculture income mentioned in original and revised ITRs of Shri Virbhadra Singh are as under:

       Sr.       Ass. Year          Original ITRs       Revised ITRs (Rs. )

       No.

     a.              2006-07               12,05,000                      NIL

     b.              2007-08               16,00,000                      NIL

     c.              2009-10                7,35,000            2,21,35,000

     d.              2010-11               15,00,000            2,80,92,000

     e.              2011-12               25,00,000            1,55,00,000

     f.              2012-13               85,00,000                      NIL

     g.              2013-14               92,00,000                      NIL

 

 

That submission of revised ITRs by Shri Virbhadra Singh for the A.Y.2009-10 to 2011-12, various discrepancies and latches observed in the explanation/documents/records submitted by Shri Anand Chauhan and M/s Universal Apple Associates, point towards an effort on the part of Shri Vir Bhadra Singh to camouflage these cash deposits as income from apple orchards. These discrepancies create huge suspicions about the genuineness of these efforts, and as a result, this income of Shri Vir Bhadra Singh has remained unexplained during the enquiry. The ultimate beneficiary of such acts was none other than Shri Vir Bhadra Singh himself, his wife Smt. Pratibha Singh, son Vikramaditya Singh, daughter M/s Aparajita Kumari and Shri Anand Chauhan who was also an instrument in the above-mentioned act.

That such an "unexplained income" gives rise to a strong suspicion of the same being ill-gotten wealth/assets, disproportionate to the known sources of income of Shri Vir Bhadra Singh acquired during the period 2009-11 when he was the Union Minister of Steel.

On this CBI said that it is, therefore, requested that Preliminary Enquiry may please be registered for fixing an appropriate check period and accounting for the incomes, assets and expenditure of Shri Virbhadra Singh to examine whether or not a viable Disproportionate assets (DA) made out against him during the period when he was Union Minister in GOI.

FARM HOUSE DEAL

The Regular Case RC 2015 A0004 dated 23.09.2015 was registered against the two Sh. Anand Chauhan, Sh. Chunni Lal Chauhan and unknown others, under Sections 13(2) read with 13(1)(e) of the PC Act and Section 109 of the IPC on the complaint of Sh. R.L Yadav, Dy. SP, CBI, AC-1, New Delhi. In his complaint, he states that during the conduct of enquiry in the First PE documents/statements were received from Income Tax Department, Faridabad, with regard to the purchase of a farm house by the son of Veerbhadra Singh at Dera Mandi, Mehrauli, New Delhi. The ITRs of Veerbhadra Singh and his family members; affidavits/declarations w.r.t. movable/immovable assets filed by the Veerbhadra Singh while contesting Lok Sabha elections 2009 and Vidhan Sabha elections 2012; bank statements; details of LIC policies and details of agricultural and non-agricultural land/ property in the name of the Veerbhadra Singh and his family members, were scrutinized. The same revealed that the Veerbhadra Singh while functioning as the Union Minister, in the Government of India during the period of 28.05.2009 and 26.06.2012 acquired assets disproportionate to his known sources of income to the tune of 6,03,70,782 and tried to justify the same in the form of agricultural income. The RC records:

Shri Vir Bhadra Singh while serving as Union Minister, Govt. of India, invested huge amount in purchasing LIC policies in his own name and his family members through Shri Anand Chauhan an LIC agent. This was done by entering into Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) dated 15.06.2008 with Shri Anand Chauhan for Mangement of his apple orchard Shri Anand Chauhan claimed to hve sold apple produce of Srikhand Orchard to Shri Chunni Lal Chauhan of M/s Universal Apple Associates (UAA), Parwanoo. Shri Anand Chauhan has shown large cash deposits in his bank accounts which were later used for purchasing LIC Policies for Shri Vir Bhadra Singh & his family members. The enquiry revealed the unaccounted cash of Sh. Vir Bhadra Singh has been brought back into regular books of accounts and for buying assets by filing revised ITRs in connivance with Shri Anand Chauhan and Shri Chunni Lal Chauhan."

. The consolidated disproportionate assets of Veerbhadra Singh his HUF were found to be as follows:

        1.      Assets at the end of check             281,080,327

                period(statement B)

2. Assets at the beginning of the Check 216,699,108 period (Statement-A)

3. Assets acquired during the check 64,381,219 period(B-A)

4. Expends during the check period 59,741,147 (Statement D) 5 Total Assets acquired and expenses 124,122,366 during the check period (B-A+D) 6 Income during the check period 63,751,584 (statement C) 7 Extent to which assets and 60,370,782 expenses(pecuniary resource) are disproportionate to Income(B-A+D)-

                (C)

        8       Percentage of D.A.(DA*100)/C           94.70%

 

The RC records that the aforesaid, prima facie, disclosed commission of offences under Sections 13(1)(e) r/w 13(2) of the PC Act r/w Section 109 of IPC on part of the petitioners and other persons named above.

Petitioners' submissions

"That the Petitioner is filing the present writ petition in public interest in order to bring to the notice of this Hon'ble Court a very serious case of prima facie corruption, money laundering and possession of assets disproportionate to the known sources of income, concerning the Former Union Steel Minister and present Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh, Shri Virbhadra Singh. The facts which have been reported in newspapers and also corroborated by several primary documents, like income tax returns, affidavit filed along with nomination paper, agreements and bank statements, clearly suggest that the, Shri Virbhadra Singh, while holding the office of Union Minister of Steel, received and invested large sums of money that could not property be accounted for.

In another case, in which one Mr. Anand Chauhan was being investigation by the Income Tax Authorities for evasion of income tax, it was found that he had deposited about Rs. 5 crore in cash in Punjab National Bank account in Shimla and also made corresponding withdrawals by cheque for LIC premiums totaling roughly Rs. 5 crore on account of his wife and children.

 

 

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