The Enforcement Directorate has summoned top fashion designers Sabyasachi, Manish Malhotra and Ritu Kumar for questioning in connection with a probe into money laundering allegations against Punjab Congress MLA Sukhpal Singh Khaira.
The MLA, who was earlier with AAP and recently rejoined the Congress, is also under probe for alleged drug smuggling and a fake passport racket.
Sources said the three designers have been asked to appear before the ED this week to answer questions regarding some financial transactions. “We have information that Khaira paid money to the tune of several lakhs to the three designers in cash in 2018-19,” an ED official said.
Asked about the notices to the designers, Khaira, former leader of Opposition in the Punjab Assembly, told The Indian Express, “I am not the person to answer this, you either ask the ED or the designers. I had purchased wedding dresses like lehangas worth Rs 3-4 lakh… two-three items… How big a case of money laundering is this?… It was a very meagre purchase for the wedding of my daughter.”
In 2016, Khaira’s daughter Simmer had got married to Inderveer Singh Johal, the grandson of the late Darbara Singh, former chief minister of Punjab.
While the staff of Sabyasachi and Ritu Kumar said they were aware of the matter and deciding their course of action, Malhotra could not be contacted.
In March, the ED had raided 12 locations across Punjab, Chandigarh and Delhi, including the premises of Inderveer Johal. Among other premises raided were those linked to convicts in a 2015 Fazilka drug smuggling case, in connection with which Khaira is facing money laundering allegations. The raids were also linked to a fake passport racket probe, for which the Delhi Police had registered an FIR.
In 2015, the Punjab Police had arrested nine people for allegedly being part of a gang that smuggled drugs across the Indo-Pak border. Police claimed to have seized 1.8 kg of heroin, 24 gold biscuits, two weapons, 26 live cartridges and two Pakistani SIM cards from them.
A senior ED official alleged that one of the kingpins of the drug syndicate was in the UK, and Khaira was in touch with him.
The Punjab Police claimed Khaira’s name had come up during investigations and a Fazilka court that convicted the nine arrested had summoned him in November 2017. At the time, Khaira was a spokesperson of the Punjab PCC and yet to join AAP.
Police had told court that Khaira had been in touch with Gurdev Singh, one of those convicted, via the mobile phone of his PSO Joga Singh, and that the two had spoken 65 times between February 27, 2015, and March 8 that year — the day before Singh’s arrest.
Khaira had got relief from the Supreme Court against the lower court’s summons.
In the fake passport racket, one person was arrested in January. The ED official said Khaira was in touch with people who were part of this racket as well. —with inputs from ENS, Chandigarh