Patiala : The Punjab vigilance bureau Monday questioned former chief minister Amarinder Singh of the Congress for over seven hours in connection with a Rs.30 billion ($740 million) corruption case relating to construction of the sprawling Ludhiana City Centre.
Amarinder Singh arrived at the stately Circuit House complex – which at one time was owned by his royal family – in two cars but with no supporters or party leaders escorting him as the vigilance team waited to question him in his hometown. Accompanying him were his MP wife Preneet Kaur, lawyers and brother.
Congress supporters and legislators raised slogans against the Akali Dal government led by Parkash Singh Badal for "harassing" Amarinder and others at some places. They were prevented by tight security measures from reaching the circuit house complex.
He was given a set of 56 questions by vigilance officials a fortnight ago and was expected to reply Monday.
His questioning pertained his properties, bank transactions and income tax returns. The former chief minister was asked to submit relevant documents about 17 queries within 10 days.
Amrinder Singh was grilled alone by a team of seven vigilance officers led by senior superintendent of police Kanwarjit Singh Sandhu.
The queries related to his role and that of his family members, ministers, close associates and his Congress government in the case.
"This is political vendetta against me and other Congress leaders. The Badals want to settle scores with me and other Congress leaders," Amarinder Singh said after coming out around 7 p.m.
He joined the vigilance probe around 10 a.m. and went for lunch at 1.30 p.m. The questioning restarted at 3 p.m.
The vigilance bureau has registered a case of cheating and other offences against Amarinder Singh, former local government minister Jagjit Singh and 17 others.
The case was registered after the Akali Dal government led by Parkash Singh Badal – whom Amarinder Singh had booked and sent to jail on corruption charges – came to power in Punjab in March.
They have been accused of causing a loss of Rs.30 billion to the state by allotting the construction of Asia's largest city centre complex in Ludhiana town – with over 100,000 square feet of covered area – to Delhi-based builder Today Homes at a lower cost.
The vigilance bureau has alleged that a bribe of Rs.1 billion was paid to Amarinder Singh and others by Today Homes to get the contract.
Vigilance officials recently arrested businessman Chetan Gupta from New Delhi and claimed that a pen drive found on him had revealed how the City Centre bribe money was transacted in foreign accounts held by Amarinder Singh and his family.
The vigilance officials claim that the bribe was routed out of India through hawala or money transfer channels operated by Gupta.
They have also sought answers from Amarinder Singh regarding Today Homes' officials sponsoring the trips of his guests from abroad, especially from Pakistan, and also his own foreign jaunts.
Amarinder Singh, who went to London March 1 for medical treatment immediately after losing state assembly elections, has a Punjab and Haryana High Court stay on his arrest till July 31. His son and son-in-law have also sought bail from the high court.
The former chief minister said that the Congress leadership was behind him in this matter even though top leaders like Congress legislature party leader Rajinder Kaur Bhattal and state Congress president S.S. Dullo were not seen around him.
"35 out of 44 Congress legislators are here. Other senior leaders have also arrived. The Congress is behind us," Amarinder Singh said.
He is likely to be questioned again after his documents are scrutinized.
A vigilance official told IANS that the team was "not satisfied" by the replies given by Amarinder Singh.