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Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Former finance minister’s son gets bail in alleged J&K Bank scam

The son of a former finance minister in Indian-administered Kashmir was granted bail nearly a year after he was arrested in an alleged ₹ 177 crore scam. 

Hilal Rather, the son of senior National Conference leader, Abdul Rahim Rather was granted bail by the high court. He was arrested by the Anti-Corruption Bureau on January 17 for his alleged involvement in misappropriation of crores of rupees from the term loans sanctioned by J&K Bank for his ambitious township project known as Paradise Avenue at Narwal Bala in Jammu in 2012. 

The case was later taken over by the Indian government’s Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). 

The CBI, which has been accused by the Indian political opposition of working at the behest of ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, took over the probe against Hilal in March and a special court subsequently refused to grant him interim bail, rejecting his fears of contracting Covid-19 and noting that he was ‘more at risk outside the prison’. 

Several Opposition leaders in Kashmir has as well charged Narendra Modi’s government of using probe agencies for political vendettas.

Hilal, who owns a construction firm, had moved an application using WhatsApp on medical grounds before the Special CBI judge seeking interim bail after the central probe agency filed a chargesheet against him and others in the fraud case within 10 days of taking over the case.  

Justice Iqbal Wani of the Kashmir high court granted bail to Hilal on surety bond of ₹ five lakh with a direction to surrender his passport and not to leave Jammu and Kashmir. 

A Press Trust of India report said the case which was probed by the anti-corruption branch of Jammu and Kashmir Police was handed over to the CBI because of “international ramifications” of the conspiracy of loan funds diversion. 

“The possibility of stashing of funds and diversion of funds to subversive elements cannot be ruled out,” the ACB had stated as one of the reasons for handing over the probe to the central agency. 

It is alleged that Hilal had taken a loan from the J&K Bank for his ambitious township project, when his father was the finance minister, and that the loan was sanctioned without submitting any collateral and the money was diverted from the bank account. 

The account had turned a non-performing asset in 2017, the probe agencies had claimed. In the chargesheet. the CBI has also named the then branch heads of J and K Bank, New University Campus branch, Iqbal Singh and Arun Kapoor as accused. 

“The loans that were sanctioned for construction of flats were allegedly diverted and misappropriated by the accused using the bank accounts of his employees. It was further alleged that the accused submitted forged certificates and bills to the bank,” a CBI spokesperson had said. 

On August 6, the Enforcement Directorate, India’s central economic probe agency, launched multiple raids at 16 locations in Kashmir, Jammu, Delhi and Ludhiana in connection with the money laundering case linked to the bank fraud probe against Hilal. 

The allegations were denied by Hilal’s family after the agency filed an FIR in the case. 

A statement issued by Hilal’s legal counsel had earlier claimed that having failed in its primary task of holding public officials accountable, the ACB was trying to give a different colour to the case by resorting to “canards and false accusations”.

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