New Delhi: The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has booked former Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, officials of the Associated Journal Ltd (AJL), publisher of National Herald newspaper, and others on charges of alleged money laundering.

Officials said the ED registered a criminal case under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) after taking cognisance of a Haryana state vigilance bureau first information report (FIR) of May this year.

The vigilance bureau had registered a case of cheating and corruption against Hooda and four officials who were in Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA) for allegedly re-allotting a plot to AJL in Panchkula in 2005.

The officials said summons will soon be issued to the accused named in the ED FIR.

Hooda termed the action as “political vendetta" and said there was no wrongdoing.

The vigilance case was registered under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), including criminal breach of trust by a public servant, cheating, criminal conspiracy and under the provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

The case was filed against Hooda, the then HUDA chairman, an ex-officio post held by him as the chief minister, and four other top officials of HUDA on 5 May.

The plot had been initially allotted to AJL in 1982. After the expiry of the lease in 1996, the then Haryana Vikas Party government led by Bansi Lal took back its possession.

It was re-allotted to AJL after the Congress leader came to power in 2005. The vigilance bureau had alleged that the act by the then HUDA chairman and the officials had caused a huge financial loss to HUDA as the plot should have been sold through an open auction instead of being alloted again to AJL.

A separate FIR had been lodged in December last year by the state vigilance bureau against Hooda as the then chairman and chief administrator of HUDA for alleged irregularities in allotment of industrial plots in Panchkula three years ago.

Hooda had then said that no rules had been violated in the allotment. Opposition parties in Haryana had sought registration of a criminal case in the matter for alleged illegal re-allotment of land in Panchkula from the Manohar Lal Khattar-led Bharatiya Janata Party government.

In a missive to the chief minister, leader of opposition Abhay Chautala had said a plot measuring 3,360 square metres in the prime location of Sector 6 in Panchkula was re-allotted to AJL on 29 June 2005.

However, soon after Congress was voted to power in 2005, Hooda initiated the process of restoring the plot to AJL on a representation made on its behalf by one of the trustees, Chautala had claimed.

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