Forest scam: ED raids former Punjab ministers Dharamsot, Gilzian
14 locations being searched by Enforcement Directorate team in connection with the forest scam-linked money laundering case
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Thursday raided multiple locations in Punjab, including the properties of former Punjab ministers Sadhu Singh Dharamsot and Sangat Singh Gilzian, in connection with the forest scam-linked money laundering case, official sources said.
Fourteen locations in the state are being searched by ED teams from the Jalandhar office under provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).
The premises of Dharamsot, 63, forest contractor Harminder Singh Hummy and some others, including press reporter Kamaljit Singh, through whom the former minister was collecting bribe, are being searched.
The five-time MLA was arrested along with two Indian Forest Service (IFS) officers earlier this year by the Punjab Vigilance Bureau (VB) as part of a case linked to alleged possession of disproportionate assets.
An ED team, accompanied by Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel, raided the house of Gilzian at his native village in Tanda sub division of Hoshiarpur district. Gilzian, who succeeded Dharamsot as state forest minister during the Congress government’s tenure, was present at the house during the raid.
Dharamsot was the first former minister that the Bhagwant Mann-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government had put behind bars for corruption. “An inquiry is on into money laundering by the accused,” an ED official said, adding that searches are on at Dharamsot’s properties in Amloh, Khanna and Mohali.
The ED has taken documents from the VB, which had probed the scam and registered two cases against the former minister and officials.
Forest department contractor Harminder Singh Hummy had said in a statement recorded under Section 27 of the Indian Evidence Act that he had been maintaining a diary on bribes given to senior officers of the forests department, political leaders and their frontmen from time to time since 2017. The diary was recovered from his place. Its perusal and investigation revealed the racket that led to the arrests.
The contractor said that he paid ₹500 a tree to Dharamsot to cut khair trees. He obtained permits for cutting about 7,000 trees for the October-March season for which he had paid a bribe of ₹1,000 a tree, including ₹500 to Dharamsot, ₹200 to the divisional forest officer (DFO) and ₹100 each to the range officer, block officer and forest guard, respectively.
Dharamsot used to get a bribe of ₹10 lakh to ₹20 lakh for the transfer of a DFO, ₹5 lakh to ₹8 lakh for a forest ranger, ₹5 lakh for a block officer and ₹2 lakh to ₹3 lakh for the forest guard through his officer on special duty (OSD) Chamkaur Singh and reporter Kamaljit Singh, the sources said.
During his three-year tenure as forest minister, Dharamsot collected ₹1 crore in lieu of issuance of permits for cutting khair trees through his OSD, they added.