The ED will soon take possession of a land worth Rs 64.93 crore in Panchkula, which was allotted to the Associated Journals Limited (AJL) by the Haryana government in 2005, after a quasi-judicial authority recently approved its order, the agency said Wednesday.
The central probe agency has issued a provisional attachment order under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act on December 1 last year for attaching the plot.
That same day, the CBI filed a charge sheet against former Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda and others for allegedly using fraudulent means to allot land to AJL.
The AJL is reportedly controlled by senior Congress leaders, including members of the Gandhi family. The group runs the National Herald newspaper.
"...Since, the value of plot fraudulently allotted to AJL has represented proceeds of crime, the ED has attached plot under the PMLA act,” the ED had said in a statement.
Now, the ED said Wednesday, that the Adjudicating Authority of PMLA" has held that defendants have committed the schedule offence, generated proceeds of crime and further found that the properties attached are proceeds of crime beyond any doubt and thereby ordered for confirmation of the provisional attachments order."
With this approval, the ED is empowered to take possession of the land and erect its authority signage over the plot that disallows any trespass or activity by anybody over the asset.
However, the plot can be finally transferred to the government exchequer once the trial in the case concludes in favour of the agency, officials said.
The ED probe had found that Hooda, as the then Haryana CM, "misused his official position by dishonestly and fraudulently allotting the said plot to AJL afresh in the guise of re-allotment at rates prevalent in 1982 (Rs 91 per sqm) plus interest despite the fact that the cancellation of allotment of the plot had earlier attained finality and it could not legally be re-allotted."
The agency said the re-allotment of the plot in 2005 "unjustly benefitted" AJL.
The agency said its probe found that Hooda "granted undue extensions thrice to Ms AJL for construction of the said plot and after the acquisition of the said plot projected it as untainted property and further acquired loans from the bank by way of mortgaging the same from tie to time."
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The CBI charge sheet, filed in a Panchkula court on December 1, named Congress leader Motilal Vora besides Hooda in connection with the alleged irregularities in the case.
The ED has questioned the two senior Congress leaders in this case.
According to the ED, the value of the land was Rs 64.93 crore while it was allotted by Hooda for 69.39 lakh.
The CBI has alleged that the re-allotment of the plot, no C-17 located in Sector-6 of Panchkula, has caused a loss to the exchequer.
The case pertains to the plot allotted to AJL in Panchkula in 1982 for the publication of Hindi newspaper 'Nav Jivan' on which no construction took place till 1992.
The Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA) then took back possession of the plot.
The ED had filed a PMLA complaint in this case in 2016 based on a CBI FIR, which had taken over investigations in this case at the request of the BJP government of Haryana, and the criminal FIRs filed by the Haryana vigilance bureau.