Punjab Congress Leader Sukhpal Khaira Arrested in Drugs-Smuggling Case

Conference of the States Parties to the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) - COSP8. Photo: UNODC (Representational Image)
Conference of the States Parties to the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) – COSP8. Photo: UNODC (Representational Image)

By RMN News Service

A Punjab Congress leader Sukhpal Singh Khaira was arrested today (November 11) by an Enforcement Directorate (ED) team. Khaira, 56, denied any wrongdoing and claimed that he is being targeted for political reasons.

According to an NDTV report, he was taken into custody by the central agency in Punjab under the provisions of Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). The ED has accused the former Punjab MLA of being an “associate” of drug-racket convicts and fake passport dealers. 

The allegations pertain to the investigation of a drugs-smuggling case in 2015 in Fazilka (Punjab).The ED had raided his premises in March this year to collect the evidence.

“The drugs were smuggled through the India-Pakistan border and one of the kingpins of the syndicate is in the UK. Sukhpal Singh Khaira was actively aiding and supporting the gang of international smugglers and enjoying the proceeds of crime,” the ED had alleged, according to the NDTV report.

It is also alleged that Khaira, who is in Congress now, visited the U.S. in 2016 when he was with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) of Delhi chief minister (CM) Arvind Kejriwal, and raised funds worth over $100,000 from non-resident Indians (NRIs) to help AAP in the 2017 Punjab state assembly elections.

According to media reports, the ED had recovered the documents pertaining to dubious funding during the raids. When Khaira was questioned, he blamed Kejriwal’s AAP, saying he had no knowledge of funding.

In September, Kejriwal and AAP had confirmed that ED – which probes financial crimes – had called AAP’s national secretary Pankaj Gupta for questioning. Gupta was summoned in connection with the money laundering case involving Khaira. 

After leaving APP in 2019, Khaira had joined Punjab Congress a couple of months ago – presumably with the hope to get exonerated after leaving AAP where the alleged financial irregularities happened.

As criminality in Indian politics is increasing rapidly, a recent petition sent to the President and Chief Justice of India urges them to take some visible and bold steps to identify and prosecute politicians with criminal records.

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Rakesh Raman