This Article is From Apr 02, 2016

For Virbhadra Singh, Allegedly Forged Papers, Fake Apples, A Delhi Flat

Five months ago, the Enforcement Directorate began investigating Virbhadra Singh for alleged money-laundering.


  • Himachal Chief Minister investigated for graft, money-laundering
  • Forged papers, inflated income from apple orchard: Investigators
  • Converted black money through insurance schemes, flat: Investigators
New Delhi: The recent takedown of two Congress governments - in Uttarakhand and Arunachal Pradesh - has the party assessing its chances of survival in a third state, Himachal Pradesh, which is led by Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh.

The 81-year-old has provided a much-needed assist to his opponents, the BJP, with a handsome specimen of a corruption scandal. Five months ago, the financial crime-fighting agency, the Enforcement Directorate, began investigating Mr Singh for alleged money-laundering, and says he has allegedly skipped several appointments for interrogation.

On the condition of anonymity, investigators have shared with NDTV the details of what they have found.

As a union minister in the previous Congress-led coalition government, Mr Singh revised his income tax returns significantly, allegedly to cover his tracks after accepting kickbacks.

This is what investors believe: Mr Singh needed to convert about eight crores of black or undeclared money into legal assets; he therefore inflated and lied about his income from an orchard in Himachal Pradesh; using the orchard as a cover, a key aide deposited about four crores in different bank accounts that were not in Mr Singh's name. The money was then used to purchase life insurance policies for Mr Singh and his family, along with a two-storey flat worth about 4.5 crores in South Delhi that's registered in his wife's name.

This gave Mr Singh legitimate assets - on paper at least - according to investigators.  

From 2009 to 2012, while he was a union minister, Mr Singh revised his tax returns to show that his assets were worth not 47 lakhs, as originally declared, but more than Rs 6 crores. Included in the revised documents were the newly acquired apartment and life insurance schemes.

Investigators say that to explain how he bought these assets, Mr Singh, in his returns, showed the orchard becoming incredibly fruitful with every passing year. In turn, his assets were shown as rapidly expanding. Investigators say their assessment shows the orchard did not produce the amount of apples Mr Singh claims, and that some clients he listed never, in fact, bought fruit from his orchard.

They also claim that documents were forged and stamp paper illicitly amended to show that the life insurance policies had been bought earlier than in fact.

Mr Singh's residence in Shimla was among his properties raided by the CBI last year, as the country's premier investigating agency looks at whether he's guilty of corruption.

The opposition BJP in Himachal Pradesh says that Mr Singh must resign, both on moral grounds and because his preoccupation with his defense is eating into his administrative abilities.

"Elections in Himachal will take place in 2016, not 2017," said BJP leader PK Dhumal -interpreted by the Congress as a sign that the BJP-led union government is strategizing to engineer the Chief Minister's removal before he completes his term next year.

Mr Singh says he is innocent. "They haven't even questioned me... how can they arrest me?" he asked. But he travelled to Delhi this week to meet with party boss Sonia Gandhi, signaling the party's growing concern about holding onto the state.