CBI arrests land scam kingpin Ashok Malhotra


New Delhi : The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Monday arrested city-based contractor Ashok Malhotra, the main suspect in a multimillion rupee land scam, from outside a private television news channel where he surfaced to give an interview.

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“We have arrested Malhotra outside Zee News studio and will produce him in a court shortly to seek his remand,” a senior CBI official said.

Malhotra, who had kept the investigating agency on the run for a few days, appeared at the Zee News studios at Noida on the outskirts of the capital and offered to surrender on the condition that he would only be interrogated in the presence of his legal advisers.

He said he had been hiding in Uttar Pradesh and Haryana because he feared for his life.

“I have no political connections and have been wrongly framed in the scam. I should be immediately provided security as I fear a threat to my life,” he told the channel.

Malhotra, who began as a chhola bhatura vendor and still runs a canteen in the Delhi Secretariat premises, also denied media reports that he has more than Rs.1 billion.

He, however, confessed to owning at least 17 luxury cars in his name.

“I challenge the CBI to prove that I have more than Rs.10 crore (Rs.100 million). I also demand that the investigating agency show to the media the papers of the 5,000 plots that it says I have sold to wrong hands.”

On Saturday, a special CBI court had issued a non-bailable warrant against Malhotra after he failed to appear before the investigating agency.

Malhotra, known for his proximity to some key Delhi politicians, had allegedly siphoned off millions of rupees in association with five Delhi Development Authority (DDA) officials and a private contractor by selling plots meant for allotment to displaced slum-dwellers in northwest Delhi’s Dheerpur area at exorbitant prices.

The CBI probe began after he figured along with the five DDA officials for the illegal allotment of plots under fictitious names.

According to CBI sources, Malhotra was also involved in selling plots under other resettlement schemes of DDA to people with fake identities. The scam reportedly took place between 2000 and 2002.

During its raids on his home in Mukherjee Nagar last week, the CBI claims to have found several incriminating documents related to the land scam, Rs.1.7 million, seven kg of gold and at least 50 luxury cars and 10 motorcycles – all bearing VIP number plates.

The CBI had last month registered a case against five DDA officers – deputy directors K.S. Verma and A.K. Mishra, assistant director J.R. Gaur and assistant engineers Shyam Babu and S.K. Sharma – for their alleged role in the scam.