After drugs, money laundering taint hits Punjab kabaddi

IANS| Updated: Mar 03, 2014, 17:14 PM IST

Chandigarh: First it was a dubious link to an international synthetic drugs racket and now another accusation has come - money laundering. Punjab`s traditional sport of kabaddi would have been better off without either of the two, but that does seem to be happening now.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has asked the Punjab government to furnish records of the World Kabaddi Cup organised by it in recent years.

The CBI, which recently booked owners and directors of realty company Pearls Group in an alleged Rs.45,000-crore agricultural land scam, had turned its focus on the World Kabaddi Cup, an event of the Punjab government.

There are allegations that the tournament was funded by private sponsors through black money.

The Pearls Group had sponsored for three years the mega Kabaddi event, which was the brainchild of Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal.

CBI officials investigating the money laundering by the Pearls realty group want to probe how several crores of rupees were spent by the group on the event.

While the Pearls group has claimed it funded the World Kabaddi Cup with up to Rs.35 crore, the same has not been reflected by the Punjab government and the event`s organising committee in its records.

The Pearls group is owned by Nirmal Singh Bhangoo, who hails from Punjab.

"The CBI has asked the Punjab government to submit all records of the Kabaddi cup in past years along with the funding provided by the Pearls group. They have been asked to submit records within one week," a CBI source told IANS.

The last edition of the World Kabaddi Cup was held in December 2013 and cash prizes of a total of Rs.6 crore were given to teams.

Kabaddi teams from over 20 countries participated in the tournament. Crores of rupees were spent by various agencies of the Punjab government in organising matches in stadiums across Punjab for 15 days.

Kabaddi, a popular sport in Punjab`s rural areas, attracted attention for wrong reasons last year when it was revealed that Kabaddi clubs operating out of Canada, which were involved in events in Punjab and Canada, were linked to the Rs.6,000-crore international synthetic drugs racket operating from Punjab and having its network in Canada, European countries and the US.

At least four people of Punjab origin based in Canada were under the scanner of Punjab Police for helping out international wrestler-turned-police officer-turned-drugs kingpin Jagdish Bhola in his drugs network.

Those investigated included Vancouver-based promoter of the Azadi Kabaddi Club, Dara Singh Mathoda, former kabaddi player Sarabjit Singh alias Nick based in Delta, British Columbia (Canada), Nirankara Singh Dhillon based in Brampton-Ontario (Canada) and Harbans Sidhu based in Toronto.

Dhillon is the father-in-law of Kulwant Singh, who was arrested in another multi-million-dollar drugs racket run by NRI Anoop Singh Kahlon.

Mathoda used to organise a cash-rich Kabaddi tournament in his village near Phagwara town, 150 km from here, annually. In 2012, the first prize for the winner of the village kabaddi tournament was a Rs.10 lakh SUV (sport utility vehicle).