‘Fraud’ who joined elite defence clubs and dropped names

On the face of it,the allegations against a 48-year-old businessman arrested by the economic offences wing of the Delhi police on Monday seem no different from those against many others accused of being impostors and booked for cheating and forgery.

Written by Ajmer Singh | New Delhi | Published: May 10, 2013 2:48:56 am

ON the face of it,the allegations against a 48-year-old businessman arrested by the economic offences wing of the Delhi police on Monday seem no different from those against many others accused of being impostors and booked for cheating and forgery.

But Shambhu Prasad Singh,who was picked up from Saket in South Delhi for allegedly cheating a businessman in a property deal worth Rs 5.17 lakh,is much more than that.

S P Singh,as he is known in government circles,is a defence contractor and Trinamool Congress member who claimed to be close to former Army chief V K Singh. He was also an aide of a late Trinamool MP who had made several unsubstantiated allegations of corruption in the armed forces and also cast aspersions on Army chief Bikram Singh before he succeeded V K Singh.

Although it was only in February that the Delhi police registered a case against S P Singh in the property deal cheating case,leading to his arrest this week,he had last year been at the centre of multiple investigations by military authorities for his alleged role in cheating paramilitary units in the Northeast,as well as under suspicion that he fraudulently obtained memberships of two elite armed forces clubs frequented by senior military officers.

In the middle of last year,the defence ministry had launched an investigation after it was suspected that Singh had become a member of the exclusive United Services Club in Mumbai,and the Army Environmental Park and Training Area,which is the Army’s golf club in Delhi,after allegedly misrepresenting himself in the application form.

The probe had found that Singh,47,had obtained the USC membership by claiming to be a serving,joint secretary-level IAS officer attached to the commerce ministry. However,no such individual worked with the ministry or was attached to it when Singh’s application form was submitted and processed in April 2011.

Singh had claimed to The Indian Express that he personally knew V K Singh since the latter’s days as a colonel in Belgaum and they met at social events and family celebrations. In May 2011,S P Singh had organised a seminar at the India Habitat Centre in Delhi which was presided over by V K Singh.

S P Singh was the subject of another investigation that began in 2011 after it was found that two companies belonging to his Rely Group — Dynamic Shells and Sai Baba Builders & Consultants — were allegedly involved in financial irregularities and had provided fake bank guarantees to the paramilitary Assam Rifles. The companies were blacklisted as the investigation began.

The two companies were major suppliers to the Army and Assam Rifles in the Northeast. Singh was designated as adviser of the Rely Group while his wife Manjari was the chairperson and managing director. Responding to a verification request by Assam Rifles,Syndicate Bank wrote back in June 2011 that bank guarantees worth nearly Rs 39 lakh submitted by the two firms for allotment of civil work contracts were fake.

The investigations had led the defence ministry to what seemed like a murky case of conflict of interest involving Singh and then Trinamool MP from Howrah Ambica Banerjee,who died last month. Banerjee,who had told The Indian Express that S P Singh was a close aide of his,had written several letters to top central ministers about defence procurement and corruption in the armed forces,some of which were taken up by V K Singh and his supporters.

But the substance of some of those letters came under a shadow of doubt. Among the many letters Banerjee wrote was one to then home minister P Chidambaram on June 15,2010. Banerjee had sought a probe against Lt Gen Rameshwar Roy,the then director-general of Assam Rifles,for alleged funds misuse. Roy was repatriated to the Army following the allegations but an investigation found no truth in the charges against him.

Barely a week before Banerjee’s letter,on June 9,Roy had ordered an inquiry into S P Singh’s companies in connection with the fake bank guarantees.

While some of the letters Banerjee wrote to Chidambaram and defence minister A K Antony were linked to the procurement of defence items dealt with by Singh’s firms,others levelled serious allegations against the then Eastern Army commander Bikram Singh,Lt Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag of 3 Corps,Assam Rifles DG Rameshwar Roy and Maj Gen A K Chaudhary.

Banerjee had also written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in July 2011 saying Bikram Singh’s daughter-in-law is a Pakistani national and the matter needs to be investigated because it is directly related to national security. But in September last year,he wrote to the PM again withdrawing the letter against Bikram Singh — without giving a reason — and asking him not to pursue the complaint.

“Yes,I know S P Singh,he is from my constituency and my close aide but I know nothing about his business dealings,” Banerjee had told The Indian Express last year. Asked about what looked like a conflict of interest between his letters and Singh’s businesses,he had said: “That is his business,I have nothing do with it. No one can influence me to write a letter.”

Singh had said that “Banerjee is like a father to me and whenever in Delhi,he stays with me. I have a house in Howrah,which is just a five-minute walk from the MP’s house and I know him from my childhood days”.

He had said he had “nothing to do” with the alleged fake bank guarantees.

Inputs by Manu Pubby

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