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Punjab Cabinet accepts Nehra Commission report

By Our Staff Correspondent

CHANDIGARH, DEC 24. The Punjab Council of Ministers has accepted the report by the Commission headed by Justice B.S. Nehra, set up earlier this year to probe charges of alleged money laundering by Raninder Singh, son of the Chief Minister, Amarinder Singh.

According to an official release the Council decided to lay the report in the Punjab Vidhan Sabha during its next session. The commission, while absolving Mr. Raninder Singh of the charges, has recommended action against those who had used "forged documents'' to defame the Chief Minister and his family.

Regarding further action on the recommendations of the Nehra Commission, the Chief Minister has said that the final view regarding registration of a criminal case would be taken after receiving legal opinion of Advocate General.

Referring to the timings of news report in a national daily, Capt. Singh said that the first news report with regard to involvement of his son in the "Punjab Intranet scam'' was published at a time when the dissidents were out seeking a change in leadership in the State.

The Chief Minister pointed out that the second report appeared coinciding with the bye-elections of Garhshankar and Kapurthala during October this year. He further added that his main opponents, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) raised the issue in Lok Sabha, only when the winter session was about to end.

Capt. Singh said that these timings obviously raised many doubts in the mind especially when the case was almost one year old and none bothered to raise it on many previous occasions in Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha.

Giving details, the Chief Minister accepted that he had been approached by foreign based companies to set up an Internet Exchange and laying of optic fibre cables, in the State. He said that the projects were rejected as the Union Government had decided to set up the exchange and allowed a consortium of Indian companies to lay the cables. A committee of experts too had opposed the initiation of the projects.

The Chief Minister said that after receiving the inputs from various quarters he had personally closed the file on December 8, 2003. He denied that any company by the name of "Punjab Intranet'' ever existed or any money having changed hands.

Meanwhile the SAD president, Parkash Singh Badal, has dismissed the inquiry report as a total hogwash and utterly irrelevant. He demanded that the Chief Minister must explain as to where did Rs. 15 crore still lying in the account of the proposer from the foreign company, Leonard A. Freeke come from.

Mr. Badal in a statement asked, "Why has the Commission not gone into this aspect despite Mr. Freeke himself confirming it in full view of the media''. He also accused the Chief Minister of committing serious constitutional improprieties by releasing the report prior to the Council of Ministers analysing it.

Mr. Badal said that the setting up of the Nehra Commission was itself a flawed and prejudiced act, meant only to mislead public opinion on the massive corruption involved in the international money laundering scam. A commission set by a state government to inquire into a scam of international ramifications could have been in no position to have access information and resources required for arriving at the truth, he added.

The only appropriate forum for such an investigation was the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), which was avoided despite assurances by Capt. Amarinder Singh in the Punjab Assembly that he would refer any allegation brought against him or his colleagues and family members to the central agencies, Mr.Badal added.

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