Top fashion designers of the country Manish Malhotra, Sabyasachi and Ritu Kumar have landed in Enforcement Directorate’s (ED) net in connection to a money laundering case. The agency was probing a case against AAP turned Congress leader and Bholath MLA Sukhpal Singh Khaira and on Wednesday summoned the fashion designers concerning the case to answer few questions regarding dubious financial transactions.
An ED official said was quoted as saying, “We have information that Khaira paid money to the tune of several lakhs to the three designers in cash in 2018-19.”
Whilst speaking to Indian Express, the former leader of Opposition in the Punjab Assembly, Khaira said, “I am not the person to answer this, you either ask the ED or the designers. I had purchased wedding dresses like lehangas worth Rs 3-4 lakh… two-three items… How big a case of money laundering is this?… It was a very meagre purchase for the wedding of my daughter.”
Reportedly, Khaira’s daughter, Simmer had got married in 2016 to Inderveer Singh Johal, the grandson of the late Darbara Singh, former chief minister of Punjab. The cash transactions that transpired during the wedding is allegedly in question. While ED has raided Khaira’s properties across the country, his son-in-law’s premises were also raided in connection to the case.
In March 2021, the ED had raided Khaira’s properties in connection with a 2015 Fazilka drug smuggling case. In 2015, the Punjab Police had arrested nine people for allegedly being part of a gang that smuggled drugs across the Indo-Pak border. Police claimed to have seized 1.8 kg of heroin, 24 gold biscuits, two weapons, 26 live cartridges and two Pakistani SIM cards from them.
Reports had emerged at the time stating that Khaira was in direct connection with the lynchpins of the operation sitting in the UK. However, to shield himself from the agencies, Khaira had moved to Punjab and Haryana high court.
Following the raids, ED had claimed that in about 12 years, Rs 4.86 crore were deposited in his bank accounts but his declared income to the income tax department stood at Rs 99 lakh.
According to media reports, on April 12, the ED issued a show-cause notice to Khaira asking him why the agency should not be allowed to examine his electronic devices, to which the Congress MLA replied that it will amount to a breach of his privacy.
While Sukhpal’s heavy involvement in corruption, drug smuggling and money laundering cases is under probe, it is worth mentioning that the former AAP leader is infamous for his separatist views. Reported by TFI, Sukhpal in the past has supported the referendum for Khalistan that could not materialize in 2020. Khaira had reportedly said, “I support the Sikh referendum 2020 movement as Sikhs have the right to demand justice against atrocities suffered by them”.
It can be entirely plausible that Khaira is the front for Khalistani organisation like Sikhs For Justice (SFJ) that had planned the ‘Referendum 2020’. Knowingly or unknowingly, the fashion designers got ensnared in Khaira’s money laundering scheme and now they have to face the music from ED.