There appears to be deep silence before storm in the corridors of power in Uttar Pradesh following the arrest and subsequent CBI remand of controversial and suspended NOIDA chief engineer, Yadav Singh, in multi-million corruption and disproportionate assets case. Preliminary probe established nexus between politicians belonging to the ruling Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and some powerful bureaucrats in awarding big contracts by way of corrupt means after taking huge bribes and without following prescribed procedures. In view of coming Parliament session this development could give sleepless nights to some of the bigwig politicians of the state as it is being seen part of a power balancing exercise to tame these leaders.
Special CBI Judge (anti-corruption) Ghaziabad Ghandikota Sree Devi partly allowed CBI’s plea to keep the custody of Yadav Singh for six days from 4th to 10th February, 2016 to further investigate and collect relevant evidences of corruption, money laundering and disproportionate assets. Yadav Singh will be reproduced before the court on next date of hearing on 10 February. CBI had registered a case against him following the High Court’s order in the PIL filed by social activist and wife of a IPS officer, Dr. Nutan Thakur pertaining to named FIR, therein it was alleged that within a brief period between 14 December 2011 and 23 December 2011, agreement bonds for the release of moneys were executed in favour of contractors in the amount of Rs 954.38 crores by the Engineering Department of NOIDA.
Seeking 14 days custody from the court the CBI in its application has disclosed that Yadav Singh, “entered into criminal conspiracy with persons/firms and awarded various contracts without following the laid down procedures and hereby causing undue pecuniary gains to the tune of crores to private firms and himself.” Earlier, CBI had already arrested his junior, assistant project engineer, Ramendra Singh in the same offences, who revealed during his investigation about serious acts of omission and commission against Yadav Singh and other persons involved in organised corruption, money laundering and creation of disproportionate assets. In view of Income Tax raids, there is a possibility that CBI could file more cases in view of ongoing investigations and disclosure of evidences against some political leaders also.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley ordered income tax investigations against powerful chief engineer Yadav Singh on a confidential complaint because of its political ramifications. Income tax authorities raided various premises of Yadav Singh on 27 and 28 November 2014. Income Tax sleuths recovered Rs. 10 crore in cash and two kilograms of diamond-studded gold ornaments. Investigations revealed that 40 companies were registered in the name of his wife Kusum Lata and 20 buildings in Noida, Ghaziabad and Delhi in Singh’s name. Shell companies were created for garment exports as their front business but were actually involved in big land deals.
Director (Investigation), Income Tax department, Uttar Pradesh Sri Krishna Saini, issued an official statement saying- “We have found evidence to prove that Singh has unaccounted assets. We have seized jewelry, cash, laptops and documents.” The team also sealed 13 lockers that belonged to Sri Singh and his associates and found that two firms-Mamta and Meenu creations-were involved in managing Yadav Singh’s unaccounted money. The probe team discovered that Meenu Creation Private Ltd and McConn Infra Private Limited were involved not only in exporting garments but also in buying land at throwaway prices and selling them at prevailing market rates. IT official said that they have found Sri Singh has invested in 35 fake Kolkata-based companies where he allegedly invested the 5% as commission on every contract that he awarded to a contractor.
Land deals linked to Mr Yadav Singh were done in Noida, Greater Noida and Ghaziabad through his wife Ms Kusumlata’s 40 bogus companies of which 35 are registered in Kolkata. Taxmen are also examining documents related to Mr Singh’s friend Mr Rajinder Manocha, a director in McConn Infra Private Limited—a construction company. `10 crore was recovered from boxes placed under the seats of the white Audi A6 that was registered to Mr Manocha. Ms Kusumlata was also allegedly a partner in McConn Infra and Meenu Creations Pvt Ltd till 2012-13. Meenu Creations, a garment unit, is listed with Ministry of Corporate Affairs but has not yet filed the details of its directors and other necessary documents required by the regulator, raising suspicion over the company’s antecedents. The details of McConn Infra are not available with the ministry of corporate affairs.
Mastering the art of power games, Yadav Singh awarded contracts worth over Rs 10,000 crore to his buddies and facilitated allotment of group housing, and of commercial, industrial and institutional plots to many top ranking builders in Noida, Greater Noida and Yamuna Expressway. He was then serving as engineer-in-chief of all the three Development Authorities. Now with an open arm given by The High Court order dated 16 July 2015, CBI could enlarge its investigations to other contracts and land deals.
Raids unearthed that Singh owned property disproportionate to his known sources of income and his power links that rose him to such miraculous heights. Using his clout and proximity with politicos in power of the day during Mayawati regime too, various plots of land were purchased at throwaway prices, and later sold at prevailing market rates making unimaginable gains. His role is also under scrutiny in allotment of 32 plots out of a total of 319 farm house plots in his name and in the names of his family members. Investigations further revealed that his wife Kusum Lata had purchased huge chunks of land in her hometown in Firozabad District of Uttar Pradesh also. Subsequently, Enforcement Directorate registered a case under Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) as agencies got some leads to the effect that the couple illegally bought property outside the country.
On 8 December 2014, a communication was addressed by the Assistant Director of Income Tax (Inv))-II, Noida to the Chairperson of NOIDA stating that during the course of a search and seizure operation of the ‘Maccon Infra Group of cases’, it was found that huge assets in the form of leasehold land appeared in the balance sheet of as many as 25 private limited companies. It was also revealed in the documents in possession of tax authorities that Yadav Singh happened to be closely associated with the Samajwadi Party leadership also.
Statutory filings with Registrar of Companies (ROC) of N. M. Buildwell, exposed the name of Samajwadi Party’s Firozabad MP Akshay Yadav, the son of party general secretary Ram Gopal Yadav, who got 9995 shares in the murky company. This company is being run by some of his associates including Rajinder Manocha, Rajesh Manocha, Namrata Manocha, Anil Peshwari and Meenakshi Peshwari together with Yadav Singh’s wife Kusum Lata and son Sunny Yadav as its partner promoter/ Directors. Incidentally Rs 10 crore cash was recovered at Singh’s house from the SUV that actually belonged to Manochas.
The raid had given political mileage to Bhartiya Janta Party led NDA government, to silence the voice of dissent rose by Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav, against various policies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the Parliament. It was noticed a mid of ongoing boycott of parliamentary session, Samjwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav took U-turn and diagonally changed the stand of his party all of a sudden. The pressure was also visible when he broke electoral alliance with Mahagathbandhan (Grand Alliance) just before assembly elections in Bihar and fought all the seats to help BJP indirectly.
Yadav Singh joined UP government in 1980 and progressing slowly and predictably till Ms Mayawati’s government in 1997 changed his fortunes. He suddenly developed proximity to Ms Mayawati and the power corridors through her brother Sri Anand Kumar. It is alleged that in Ms Mayawati’s regime in 2002, he was elevated to the post of chief maintenance engineer directly from the post of an engineer, after sidelining all other eligible officials who were senior to him. He gained the confidence of the then Chief Minister Ms Mayawati’s and was made responsible to handle key projects of her government, including the construction of parks and monuments in the name of Dalit icons. “The crux of these stories is the rise and rise of Yadav Singh through the blatant misuse of authority, with active support of politicians and powerful bureaucrats,” commented Dr. Nutan Thakur on whose PIL the High Court ordered CBI investigation resulting the arrest of Yadav Singh. PIL raised questions of law and propriety including transparency and probity in discharge of official functions in a democracy.
Just after coming to power in 2012, chief minister Akhilesh Yadav suspended Yadav Singh on the charges of corruption, obviously because of his proximity with the previous Mayawati government. On the basis of a preliminary enquiry report of three officers submitted on 9 June 2012 a FIR was registered as Case Crime No 371 of 2012 under Sections 409, 420, 466,467, 469, 471 and 120-B of the IPC, and under Section 13(1)(d) read with Section 13(2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 at Police Station Sector 39, Noida, Gautam Budh Nagar, against Yadav Singh and his junior Ramendra, the then Project Engineer and two construction companies by the name of Tirupati Constructions Private Limited and JSP Constructions. It was alleged that within a brief period between 14 December 2011 and 23 December 2011, agreement bonds for the release of moneys were executed in favour of contractors in the amount of Rs 954.38 crores by the Engineering Department of NOIDA.
Surprisingly the Samajwadi government too was tackled by the networking of Yadav Singh and pending investigations by civil police, on application of one Sanjay Jain, a partner of JSP Constructions, state government transferred the investigation on 3rd November 2012 to the Crime Branch of the Criminal Investigation Department. Pending investigation by CBCID Samajwadi government revoked the suspension of Yadav Singh in September 2013, but he was not given charge of chief engineer. The Investigating Officer of CBCID submitted a final report on 3 January 2014 to the court of the District and Sessions Judge, Gautam Budh Nagar. A notice was issued by the court to the informant, R P Singh. The informant stated that he had no objection to the final report being accepted. The District and Sessions Judge, Gautam Budh Nagar accepted the final report by an order dated 27 November 2014 thereby giving a clean chit to Yadav Singh. Soon after final report filed before the court the charge of coveted post of chief engineer of all the three authorities restored back to him.
At or about the time when the final report was being accepted by the District and Sessions Judge, Gautam Budh Nagar, income tax raids were carried out on 27 and 28 November 2014 at the premises of Yadav Singh by a team of nearly 100 officials conducted search operations at 20 premises situated in Noida, Ghaziabadand Delhi. Seeing the public perception and political repercussions chief minister Akhilesh Yadav suspended him again in February 2015 and instituted one man judicial commission under the chairmanship of Justice A.K. Verma to probe charges against him. But in July 2015, the Allahabad High Court directed the CBI to investigate the case as “allegations were most serious and the probe was complex”. The UP government approached the Supreme Court against the High Court order but the Supreme Court refused to entertain the plea of the state government. Everyone wondered why the UP Government was trying to shield Singh from a CBI investigation in a corruption case?
At a time when Samajwadi Party is positioning itself for 2017 assembly elections by projecting its government’s achievements on governance and development fronts, the arrest of Yadav Singh by CBI and the role of Samajwadi Party leaders could lead the government for further humiliation in the ongoing budget session of state assembly.