A contractor, sent to jail this month after a probe uncovered alleged largescale irregularities in the Punjab irrigation department, partly funded the successful sand mine auction bid of Rajbir Enterprises, the firm in which a former employee of Power & Irrigation Minister Rana Gurjit Singh is a working partner.
Documents accessed by The Indian Express show that on May 23 this year — it was the last date for successful bidders to deposit security money for the mining awards in Nawanshahr district — contractor Gurinder Singh, who had not been booked then for his alleged role in the irrigation department scandal, transferred Rs 5 crore from his bank account to the account of Jatin Garg, a cousin of Sahil Singla, one of the two managing partners of Rajbir Enterprises. Sahil is the son of T N Singla, Rana Gurjit’s chartered accountant.
The same day, more transactions took place. Garg transferred the money to the account of Rajbir Enterprises which in turn transferred Rs 46,118,320 (4.6 crore) via NEFT to the General Manager-cum-Mining Officer, Nawanshahr. In another transaction, Rajbir Enterprises transferred via RTGS another Rs 133,494,700 (Rs 13.3 crore) to the General Manager-cum-Mining Officer. All three accounts — of Singh, Garg and Singla — were in HDFC Bank.
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Rajbir Enterprises has two managing partners — Sahil Singla and Sanjeet Singh Randhawa, son of Rana Gurjit’s friend Capt J S Randhawa. Amit Bahadur, a former employee of Rana Gurjit, is a working partner in the firm. Gurinder Singh was arrested by the Punjab Vigilance Bureau on December 13. He was booked in August this year after a probe found that his firm, Gurinder Singh & Company, had allegedly cornered several projects with help from irrigation department officials during the rule of the Akali Dal government.
A vigilance inquiry found “rules were twisted, tailor-made terms were drafted for e-tendering, secret information was leaked to Gurinder for development works worth Rs 1,000 crore so that he could bid accordingly. These works were allotted to him at 10 to 50 per cent higher rates as compared to departmental rates, thereby causing a loss to state exchequer”.
In May, Rajbir Enterprises won the bid for Saidpur mine in Nawanshahr for Rs 26.51 crore. But revelations of the links between bidder Amit Bahadur and Rana Gurjit made Chief Minister Amarinder Singh order a probe by Justice (retired) J S Narang into “allegations of impropriety” by the Power & Irrigation Minister.
Justice Narang gave a clean chit to the minister but recommended cancellation of the winning bids for two mines —one was in Saidpur and the other in Mehdipur, allotted to Rajbir Enterprises (Mohali). In this firm, partners Sanjeet Singh Randhawa and Sahil Singla were the managing partners, and Kulwinder Pal Singh, another former employee of Rana Gurjit, was the working partner. The Chief Minister constituted a three-member panel to look into the Narang Commission recommendations. The panel is yet to submit its views.
Although Rana Gurjit dissociated himself from Amit Bahadur and the sand mine immediately, an investigation by The Indian Express showed their financial links. According to the minister’s election affidavit, filed on January 17, 2017 for the Kapurthala seat in the Punjab assembly, he and his wife, Rana Rajbans Kaur, owed Rs 24.85 crore to three firms — RJ Texfab Pvt Limited, Flawless Traders Pvt Limited and Century Agros Pvt Limited. Bahadur was a director in each. In his election affidavit, Rana Gurjit stated he had taken “loans and advances” from these companies among others.
Asked about the money Rajbir Enterprises received from contractor Gurinder Singh via Jatin Garg, Rana Gurjit Singh said he had nothing to do with the transactions. “My chartered accountant is on my payroll. If somebody is giving his relatives some money, it is a deal between them. I have heard about this transaction. Par paise Rana Gurjit ko to nahi diye (But money was not given to Rana Gurjit). Is there a connection? If Singla gets money from some relative for Rajbir Enterprises, I have nothing to do with that. In any case, I have no link with Rajbir Enterprises.”
Rajbir Enterprises managing partner Sanjeet Singh Randhawa said: “We received the money from Jatin Garg. Par hamari setting nahi hui. We returned the money to him a few days later. We do not know where his money came from. He is now dealing with Sahil Singla because they are related. They are first cousins. He is not dealing with us.”
In a written response, Jatin Garg said: “Gurinder Singh is a friend of my father and, like him my father, is also a government contractor. He requested my father to invest his money on interest with some reliable person. My father requested Gurinder uncle for a loan. He gave loan in my name at 12 per cent interest and executed a notarized agreement and also took blank cheques. I sent these funds to my cousin Sahil Singla, partner in Rajbir Enterprises for investment. Rajbir Enterprises returned Rs 5 crore the next day as my cousin expressed his inability to invest these funds in Rajbir Enterprises. Then my father further reinvested these funds on 15 per cent interest. I was never a partner in Rajbir Enterprises nor have I any investment with Rajbir Enterprises. Now I am abroad for higher studies and I am not doing any business as partner or otherwise. This fact was also explained before the Justice Narang Commission with all documentary evidences.”
Sahil Singla said: “It is incorrect to say that Gurinder Singh funded our sand mining bids. Jatin is my cousin. He told me he had money to invest. I told him we are going to invest in sand mines. I do not know where the money came from. But we returned it two days later. The affidavits and other documents related to Jatin’s investment and source of funds were shown to Justice Narang also.”