The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on late Thursday evening arrested Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi's nephew Bhupinder Singh Honey in an illegal sand mining case from Jalandhar after day-long questioning, said sources.
Honey was being questioned at ED's office at Jalandhar. ED arrested Honey under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). He is likely to be produced later in the day before a Special Court at Mohali.
ED's action came around 20 days after it seized more than Rs 10 crore, gold worth above 21 lakh and a Rolex watch worth Rs 12 lakh from the residential premises of Bhupinder Singh Honey, and others in connection with an alleged illegal sand mining case.
The ED had declared the recoveries after it concluded its two-day raid conducted at the business and residential premises of the accused persons and their associates in over a dozen places in Mohali, Ludhiana, Rupnagar, Fatehgarh Sahib and Pathankot.
The federal agency had also raided the premises of the accused persons and their associates including Kudratdeep Singh, the owner of Pinjore Royalty Company, and his partners and shareholders Kanwarmahip Singh, Manpreet Singh, Sunil Kumar Joshi, Jagveer Inder Singh on January 18 and 19.
The raids were also conducted at the premises of Randeep Singh, the owner of Providers Overseas Consultants Pvt Ltd and its other directors and shareholders including Bhupinder Singh and Sandeep Kumar.
The places being searched then included Honey's Homeland Heights Society residence in Mohali's Sector-70.
ED initiated a money-laundering investigation on the basis of FIR registered at Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar Police Station under section 379, 420, 465, 467, 468 and 471 of Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Section 21(1) and 4(1) of Mines and Minerals (Regulation of Development) Act, 1957 in March 2018.
In the FIR, it was mentioned that a team comprising of officials of the Mining Department, Civil Administration and Police Department made a surprise check on March 7, 2018, on the basis of a complaint received at Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar Police Station regarding illegal sand mining.
Consequently, it was found that several mines were being excavated by various machines and mining was being carried out beyond the designated area.
Accordingly, several tippers and trucks, Porcelain machines and JCB Machines were captured and seized by the investigating team.
"The seized tipper and trucks were also found to be overloaded with sand. The seized weighment slips having office stamps had actually not been issued by the concerned office and were forged," ED had said.
Subsequently, the ED had also informed, the mining operation at the Malikpur mining site was stopped and also the approval of weighment slips was stopped by the team.
As per the FIR, apart from Malikpur, illegal mining activities were also carried out at Burjtahl Das, Barsal, Lalewal, Mandala and Khosa.
On the basis of information available, the ED said, the investigation was initiated against all the accused mine owners and their associates in order to ascertain the money laundering activities undertaken by them for laundering their proceeds of crime.
The ED suspects that black money was invested in getting a contract for the sand mine. The company floated, sources say, is of very small scale and unlikely to get a contract worth crores.
Honey's partner Kudratdeep Singh of Ludhiana and 25 others are already booked by Punjab Police and its FIR was registered in 2018. When the ED questioned Kudratdeep Singh it came to the fore that the main facilitator was Honey.
With the Assembly election in Punjab slated for February 20, the timing of raids and arrest of Punjab CM's nephew is all set to rise the electioneering mercury in the State.
Voting for 117 assembly seats in Punjab is slated for February 20.
Punjab CM Channi had earlier termed the raids by ED in January as part of a political vendetta, saying "Congress party and its leaders will not budge under any pressure".