By Jaideep Sarin
Chandigarh, Jan 22 (IANS) Bizarre as it may sound, the bank accounts of a driver and clerks of a lawyer here show transactions of Rs.38 crore in recent years.
The driver alone had transactions of over Rs.22 crore in his accounts. The staff, and the lawyer himself, are now being investigated by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) for alleged money laundering after officials seized documents of properties and accounts worth over Rs.500 crore – the biggest money laundering scam to have hit this city.
Not only this. The driver, clerks and close aides of the lawyer and his family members were directors of firms and companies floated in recent years for alleged money laundering.
The seizure of documents took place in the past one week following raids on the house of lawyer Mukesh Mittal and his close aides in and around the city. ED officials say that the scam could be of much bigger proportions.
ED investigations into 15 bank accounts of Mittal’s driver and clerks revealed transactions of Rs 38 crore from 2008 till 2014.
Mittal’s driver Lal Chand allegedly had transactions of Rs 10.64 crore and Rs 11.5 crore in just two of his accounts. The amount was credited and debited between 2008 and last year. Four other accounts of the driver are also being probed.
Sources in the ED said that 108 bank accounts have been frozen as investigations are under way into all transactions made in them. ED officials also seized over 210 blank cheques, signed by Mittal’s staff, from his residence.
“At least five bank accounts of Mittal’s clerk Ajay Singh and two accounts of Parveen Kumar (a typist) are under scrutiny. There are huge transactions in the accounts of the lawyers’ staff. They could not have accumulated this huge money from their petty salaries,” an ED officer told IANS here, speaking on condition of anonymity as he is not authorised to speak to the media.
The bank account of Mittal’s typist, Praveen Kumar, had transactions of Rs 15.67 crore from 2008 till last year.
Mittal, a former president of Chandigarh’s District Bar Association, has been in the thick of controversies earlier also over property transactions and for floating firms. A powerful lawyer with alleged connections to senior bureaucrats, politicians, police officers and lawyers, Mittal was even able to get lawyers in the district courts observe a two-day strike last week following raids at his house and other places.
The ED is investigating several firms and companies, floated by Mittal and his aides, where they were all directors.
Sources say that the ED officials stumbled on the alleged money laundering while investigating the case of the illegal sale of a commercial property of an NRI, Tara Singh, in 2006.
The ED has registered a case under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act following its raids.
ED sources said that they were getting complaints from people about Mittal’s role in other property sales, especially involving disputed properties.
Talking to media following raids and his summoning by the ED, Mittal however claimed that he was being framed.
“I have nothing to do with these (transactions). The ED was investigating a forgery in a property deal involving one of my clients,” Mittal claimed.
Mittal’s brother, Chetan Mittal, is an assistant solicitor general of India. Chetan Mittal was earlier Punjab’s additional advocate general.
By Jaideep Sarin