A month after Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL) chairman Anil Kumar Chaudhary was assaulted by armed men in what appeared to be a case of road rage, the Delhi police have established that it was, in fact, a premeditated attack over a deal not going through.
The special task force of the Crime Branch has arrested a 62-year-old private contractor, Ashok Kumar Singh, for allegedly hiring the men to attack Chaudhary. Sources at SAIL said Chaudhary rejected poor quality coking coal, sourced from the US, supplied by a Sharjah-based company owned by Singh’s son.
Two men, Lalit and Amarjeet, were arrested from the spot on August 8 when four police personnel came to Chaudhary’s aid during the assault. Police later arrested two more accused, Omparkash and Pravesh, who had fled.
On August 23, the case was transferred to the Crime Branch, which arrested Sunil Balhara, a property dealer, and his brother-in-law Satendra Kadyan, who allegedly hired the four criminals.
“On September 6, police arrested Ashok Kumar Singh, a private contractor who deals in coking coal in connection with the attack, which took place at South Delhi’s August Kranti Marg. Investigation revealed it was a premeditated attack after Chaudhary refused to go through with a coking coal deal with the son of the accused…the intention was to intimidate the SAIL chief,” said a police officer.
DCP (Crime Branch) Dr Ram Gopal Naik said, “Singh was arrested Friday from his residence in Vasant Kunj, and was in police custody for three days.” He was produced before a court Monday, and released on bail.
When contacted, Chaudhary told The Indian Express, “I have been maintaining that this was not a case of robbery or road rage but a conspiracy to kill me. And it has been proved with their arrest. But I am shocked that he (Singh) was released on bail. My family members and I are now scared.”
During questioning, Singh is learnt to have told police that his son has a coking coal company in Sharjah, and that he had struck a Rs 100-crore deal with SAIL in 2018. “He claimed the contract was signed and the consignment arrived from the US at two ports — Haldia and Visakhapatnam — but it was rejected due to poor quality twice, by a committee headed by Chaudhary. He claimed SAIL had paid the first installment of Rs 30 crore, but unhappy with the quality of coking coal supplied, the payment was later cancelled. Singh claimed Chaudhary did not give permission for the consignment to be accepted, so he decided to teach him a lesson,” said a senior officer probing the case.
Singh is learnt to have told police that he was angry at having to pay tax to SAIL for using the two ports, and had been trying to pressure Chaudhary for a year to go through with the deal. “On June 15, he allegedly asked Balhara to lure him in a honey trap case, but he eventually refused,” an officer said.
“Then, he allegedly asked for an attack on Chaudhary, so that he would have to take a break from work due to the injuries, and someone else would clear the deal. He allegedly struck a deal at Rs 50 lakh with Balhara, who then asked Kadyan to hire criminals. Kadyan hired four men with criminal history, promising them Rs 6 lakh.”
Police said Kadyan did not share the exact plan with them and kept the profile of the intended target to himself. He only told the men that a man returning from office had to be robbed. “He asked them to kill him if he resisted, and gave them a pistol. He also gave them Rs 2 lakh in advance. On the night of August 8, Chaudhary was attacked by the four men who barged into his car and asked for ‘compensation’. When Chaudhary resisted, the men assaulted him and his driver with iron rods. Balhara and Kadyan were sitting in their car a few meters away,” said the officer.