The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has arrested Bhupinder Singh alias Honey, nephew of Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi, in a money laundering case linked to alleged illegal sand mining in the border state, officials said on Friday.
They said Honey was arrested under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) late Thursday night after several hours of questioning at the agency's office in Jalandhar.
Sources claimed he was evasive in his replies and was hence taken into custody. The ED will produce him before a special PMLA court in Mohali on Friday seeking his remand.
Honey is the son of Channi's sister-in-law.
On January 18, the agency had raided his premises and claimed to have seized about Rs 8 crore cash and "incriminating" documents. Property belonging to a few others were also raided.
The development comes days before Congress leader Rahul Gandhi is likely to announce the party's chief ministerial candidate in the poll-bound state. Gandhi is expected to make this announcement during his virtual rally in Ludhiana on Sunday and Channi is stated to be the front runner.
Punjab will go to polls on February 20.
After the raids last months, ED sources had claimed that the agency had recovered over Rs 10 crore in cash and several documents, of which Rs 8 crore and most of the papers were seized from premises linked to Honey alone.
About Rs 2 crore cash was seized from the premises linked to a person identified as Sandeep Kumar.
The ED had then issued a statement saying those covered in the raids included Kudratdeep Singh, Pinjore Royalty company and its partners/shareholders, Kanwarmahip Singh, Manpreet Singh, Sunil Kumar Joshi, Jagveer Inder Singh, Randeep Singh, Providers Overseas Consultants Pvt Ltd and its other directors, shareholders, including Honey and Sandeep Kumar, at Mohali, Ludhiana, Rupnagar, Fatehgarh Sahib and Pathankot.
Channi had told reporters that as relatives of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee were raided during the Assembly polls in that state, the "same pattern" was being followed by the ED in Punjab to "pressure" him, his ministers and the Congress party members.
The ED filed a criminal case under PMLA last November.
The case is based on a 2018 FIR at the Shaheed Bhagat Singh (SBS) Nagar police station that pressed charges under the Indian Penal Code and Mines and Minerals (Regulation of Development) Act, 1957.
In this police FIR, the ED said, it was mentioned that a team of officials from the mining department, civil administration and police made a surprise check at the Malikpur mining site on March 7, 2018, on the basis of a complaint received at Rahon, SBS Nagar police station, regarding illegal sand mining.
Subsequently, the mining operation at Malikpur was stopped.
Illegal mining activities were also carried out at Burjtahl Das, Barsal, Lalewal, Mandala and Khosa, the ED said quoting the police FIR.