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ED probes Punjab MLA, son-in-law for alleged links to international drugs racket

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The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Tuesday carried out raids at the residence of Punjab lawmaker, Sukhpal Singh Khaira, and his son-in-law Inderveer Singh Johal among seven others for allegedly being part of an international drugs smuggling syndicate having links in Pakistan and the United Kingdom as well as a human trafficking racket, popularly called ‘kabootarbaazi’ in Punjab, people familiar with the development said.

The central agency has registered two cases a few weeks back to investigate money laundering – first based on a trans-border drugs smuggling network unearthed in Fazilka, Punjab in 2015, in which 1,800 grams of heroin, 24 gold biscuits, two weapons, 26 live cartridges and two Pakistani SIM cards were seized by Jalalabad police (Punjab).

The second case pertains to a fake passport racket being run in Delhi.

Nine smugglers were sentenced in the Fazilka drugs smuggling case in October 2017, including Gurdev Singh, Manjit Singh, Harbans Singh and Subhash Chander who were raided by the ED on Tuesday morning.

In fact, Khaira’s name had cropped up in the case in 2017. Although not named in the Punjab police charge sheet, a Fazilka court had issued summons to Khaira on November 30, 2017. He was Punjab’s Leader of Opposition and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MLA at that time. However, the Supreme Court granted him relief by quashing proceedings against him.

Khaira, an MLA from Bhulath in Kapurthala district, was elected to the state assembly in 2017 on an AAP ticket. Two years ago, he quit the party and formed Punjab Ekta Party (PEP).

An ED official, requesting anonymity, said on Tuesday, “Sukhpal Singh Khaira was actively aiding and supporting the gang of international smugglers and enjoying the proceeds of crime”.

Khaira, the officer added, was particularly very close to Gurdev Singh, the leader of Fazilka drugs smuggling racket and used to shelter him often. “We suspect Khaira was involved with the drug syndicate for the past several years. We have information that he enjoyed financial benefits for helping the smugglers,” the officer added.

The lawmaker is likely to be called for questioning very soon at the agency’s Delhi office. The ED didn’t find any record of Khaira’s questioning by the Punjab Police ever.

In all, the ED raided 12 places on Tuesday, including Khaira’s residence in Punjab and eight others, two premises in Delhi and one location in Chandigarh.

Apart from Khaira, his son-in-law and four drugs convicts, three others were raided on Tuesday. They include Harminder Kaur, Rajwinder Kaur, and Bikker Singh who had been caught in the human trafficking (kabootarbaazi) case. The fake passport racket is called Kabootarbaazi among cops in Delhi and Punjab. Uneducated persons are illegally sent abroad by travel agents in this racket.

All seven who were raided by the ED on Tuesday are currently out on parole, said a second official.

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