Minister's firms figure in fraud Bilaspur land deals

FP

Last week two government officers and one land agent were arrested and four other officers suspended in Bilaspur district for fraudulently registering 53 acres of private and government land in Bhadora village in favour of two real estate companies, Ranju Infracon and Chiripal Gases Pvt Ltd.

The Indian Express has found that these companies purchased the land for a proposed 350 MW power plant of Ozone Steel and Power Ltd at Bhadora. Ozone Steel is owned by Chhattisgarh Health Minister Amar Agarwal, and has his son Aditya and other relatives as shareholders. Besides, the agent who was arrested, Mohammad Rafique, was the authorised signatory to buy land in the area for Rukmini Infrastructure Pvt Ltd, which is a group company of Ozone Steel.

Chiripal Gases is another group company of Ozone Steel while Ranju Infracon also has close links with the Agarwal family. A BJP heavyweight, Amar Agarwal is the party MLA from Bilaspur.

The authorised signatories of Ranju Infracon and Chiripal Gases, Jaskiran Gill and Ankush Goyal respectively, have been named accused in the fraudulent land deals and are absconding. Farmers and the district administration have filed FIRs against these authorised agents.

"Tehsildaars, patwari and these agents conspired to commit this fraud. We have arrested three persons," said SP Ratan Lal Dangi. Besides Rafique, the two others arrested are Kotwar Mohan Das and Patwari Firoz Menon. Asked about the minister, Dangi said: "We are interrogating the accused. Probe is on."

The Agarwals admitted that the registries were fraudulent and that the land had been purchased for their power plant, but claimed Rafique and the other agents acted without their knowledge.

"We had no clue about this fraud. We completely dissociate ourselves from these agents," Aditya said. Asked how the agents had got registries done in the name of their companies without their consent, Minister Amar Agarwal said: "My relatives and I have nothing to do with the case. The culprit has been arrested, the investigation is on."

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