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Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Two retd. IAS officers flee to USA to skip probe in Rs 1,000 crore Punjab Irrigation Dept scam

In an audacious attempt to escape investigation, two Punjab cadre IAS officers (now retired), former Chief Secretary Sarvesh Kaushal and former Special Chief Secretary KBS Sidhu allegedly involved in the Rs 1,000 crore Irrigation Department scam have flown out of the country and are at present in the US, according to top Punjab police sources.

The two high-profile officers wanted by the Punjab Vigilance Bureau (VB) in its ongoing investigation into the scam flew to the US a few days before Look-Out Circulars (LOCs) were issued against them as they were tipped off about the government’s decision to grant sanction to launch an investigation against them, sources said.

However, the third IAS officer (now retired) allegedly involved in the scam, former Secretary of the Irrigation Department, Kahan Singh Pannu, today appeared before the Vigilance Bureau after being summoned for questioning.

The sons of both the “wanted” officers are settled in the US holding green cards. They have been regularly visiting them all this while and have succeeded in getting 10-year multiple-entry visas to the US, it is learnt.

Fearing arrest, KBS Sidhu moved the Punjab and Haryana High Court against the launching of the investigation into the scam on various grounds and has also mentioned that he intended to return to Bharat. Seeking free passage on arrival from the High Court, Sidhu wanted directions to be issued that he should not be detained at the Indira Gandhi airport, Delhi once he lands. The matter is still pending.

As per the statement of the key accused, contractor Gurinder Singh alias Bhappa, recorded before the Vigilance Bureau earlier, he paid a bribe of Rs 8.5 crore to Sarvesh Kaushal, Rs 5.5 crore to KBS Sidhu, and Rs 7 crore to Kahan Singh Pannu. Bhappa also said he paid two former Ministers in the Akali Dal government – Janmeja Singh Sekhon was given Rs 6.5 crore and Sharanjit Singh Dhillon Rs 7.5 crore.

The Vigilance Bureau, after questioning the bureaucrats, will summon the two former Irrigation Ministers to join the investigation, according to sources.

The three bureaucrats involved in the scam are alleged to have facilitated the fraudulent allotment of tailor-made tenders for various projects of the Irrigation Department to their favoured contractor Gurinder Singh who as a quid pro quo paid hefty bribes to them and the two former Ministers.

The previous investigation officer of the Vigilance Bureau AIG Ashish Kapoor with the help of the technical committee found that the allotted works were half done but full payments were released to the contractor under orders of these bureaucrats. The investigation revealed that the contractor’s personal assets rose from Rs 3.5 crore to over a whopping Rs 300 crore in just five to six years.

(The story has been published via a syndicated feed with a modified headline)

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