The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has questioned former Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda and Congress leader Motilal Vora in a money laundering probe related to the allotment of a plot in Panchkula to Associate Journals Limited (AJL), the publisher of the National Herald newspaper. This came days after the Central Bureau of Investigation registered a case against Hooda in connection with the case.
Sources said that Congress treasurer Vora, 88, was questioned on Tuesday in Delhi and Hooda in Chandigarh. They were confronted with documents seized in various ED searches and their statements were recorded. Vora was questioned in his capacity as AJL’s chairman and managing director.
The CBI had earlier filed a criminal complaint and booked Hooda, AJL officials and others on charges of alleged money laundering taking cognizance of a Haryana State Vigilance Bureau FIR. The FIR had alleged cheating and corruption on part of Hooda and four officials for re-allotting the plot to AJL in Panchkula in 2005 below the market rate and causing a loss of Rs 62 crore.
“It is wrong that the plot was allotted on original rates, which was just Rs 2 lakh. But we decided to re-allot it with additional cost of Rs 58 lakh as interest. Moreover, the plot was not allotted to any individual but to a newspaper, National Herald, which had played significant role during the freedom struggle of the country,” Hooda had said.
ED sources said that the allotment under the scanner was related to AJL’s Hindi newspaper Navjeevan. In 1982, AJL was allotted the plot on the condition that it would complete construction within two years. AJL did not begin construction and in 1992, the allotment was cancelled.