New Delhi: The Law Enforcement (ED) Directorate has filed an indictment against Punjab Congress Leader Sukhpal Singh Khaira for allegedly laundering money in the drug smuggling racket of Fazilka in 2017, people close to the development said.
Fazilka drug kingpin Gurdev Singh was also named as a defendant in the ED indictment, filed the first week of January under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).
ED discovered that Khaira had made large cash deposits into his bank accounts and those of his family members over the years, which he could not satisfactorily explain during questioning. The indictment states that between 2014 and 2020, Khaira spent more than ₹6.5 crores on himself and his family members. His income during this period was less than ₹3 crore, but the expenses exceeded ₹3.5 crore, said an official, requesting anonymity.
Agency investigators who did not want to be named said they provided substantial evidence to establish that the former lawmaker was involved with drug traffickers and received financial benefits from them.
Khaira, 56, was arrested by the central anti-money laundering agency on November 11 for his links to drug traffickers and counterfeiters manufacturing fake passports. At the time of his arrest, Khaira denied any wrongdoing and said he was being targeted by Central agencies for speaking out against the Center’s three new Farm Bills (since repealed). “It’s a political vendetta. Nothing else,” Khaira told the media during his abduction by ED on November 11, 2021.
Khaira won the assembly election in 2017 from Bholath in Kapurthala district (Punjab) on an Aam Aadmi party ticket. However, in January 2019 he left the party and formed the Punjab Ekta Party (PEP), which he merged into the Congress in June 2021.
He came under ED’s scanner in January 2021 in two cases – the first involving a cross-border drug smuggling ring uncovered in Fazilka, Punjab in 2015, in which 1.8 kg of heroin, 24 gold biscuits, two weapons, 26 real cartridges and two Pakistani SIM cards were seized by the police in Jalalabad (Punjab); and the second to a traffic of false passports in Delhi.
Nine traffickers were convicted in the Fazilka drug trafficking case in October 2017, including Gurdev Singh, Manjit Singh, Harbans Singh and Subhash Chander.
According to a senior ED officer who did not want to be named, Khaira was particularly close to Gurdev Singh, Fazilka’s drug smuggling boss and often sheltered him.
The politician’s name also appeared in the case in 2017. Although he was not named in the Punjab police indictment, a court in Fazilka issued him a summons to appear on 30 November 2017. However, the Supreme Court granted him relief by quashing the charges against him. At that time, he was the opposition leader of Punjab and an MP from the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
The main allegation against him is that he was supporting the international smuggling gang and profiting from the proceeds of crime.
Last year, the central agency questioned AAP National Secretary Pankaj Gupta and former party leader Kumar Vishwas about the foreign funds raised by the party in 2016 in the run-up to the Punjab assembly elections. Khaira traveled to the United States in 2016 to raise funds for the AAP from Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) ahead of the Punjab State Assembly elections.