The names of former J&K chief minister Omar Abdullah and ex-finance minister Haseeb Drabu have surfaced in a scam worth Rs 180 crore involving the purchase of Jammu and Kashmir Bank’s integrated office in Mumbai during the National Conference-Congress rule.
A preliminary enquiry conducted by J&K Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) into the purchase of a building for Rs 180 crore by the J&K Bank in Mumbai in 2010 has revealed that not only was there no requirement for such a purchase, but even the lowest bidder was ignored twice by the Bank.
On Tuesday, the ACB sleuths carried out searches at eight locations, including the premises of then chairman of the Bank Haseeb Drabu, then executive director AK Mehta and the then directors Mohammed lbrahim Shahdad and Vikrant Kuthiala in the scam.
Last month, Omar Abdullah was questioned by the Enforcement Directorate in connection with the scam. Omar was the chief minister when the approval for the purchase of the property at an exorbitant rate was given.
Drabu, who was the chairman of the Bank when the scam happened, later joined the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and was Finance Minister when Mehbooba Mufti was the CM from 2016 to 2018.
The ACB inquiry has revealed that on November 6, 2008, an advertisement was issued by the J&K Bank for purchasing 20,000 square feet of integrated office premises at Bandra Kurla, Mumbai. Offers were received from 25 builders and the committee constituted for the task shortlisted eight buildings.
“However, the lowest bidder Ashapura Builders (Hallmark Business Plaza) was ignored and upon directions of Corporate headquarters J&K Bank, the zonal head Mumbai published another advertisement on January 14, 2010 for purchase of the space,” the anti-graft body inquiry reveals.
Subsequently, 23 offers were received and M/s Ashapura Builders again quoted the lowest rate @ Rs. 25,000 per square feet. However, the lowest bidder was again ignored and on February 25, 2010, in the board of directors meeting, the members accorded approval to purchase of the space from M/s Akruti Gold BKC for Rs 180 crore.
“A letter of intent was signed with the builder and a token money of Rs 25 crore was paid to developer Vishal Techno Commerce Limited, “the inquiry reveals. “There was sufficient space available with J&K Bank for functioning of Branch Bandra Kurla, Zonal Office and Treasury, as such there was no requirement of purchasing any additional accommodation.”
On November 11, 2021, the CBI had registered a case on allegations of irregularities in purchase of the Akruti Gold building for Rs 180 crore by J&K Bank for its integrated office in Mumbai in 2010. The case was referred by the J&K government to the CBI.