Ponty Chadha murder case: Cops suspect income tax raid link

NEW DELHI: New leads in the Ponty Chadha shootout case point to a deep conspiracy, possibly linked to the tax raids at the liquor baron’s properties early this year, sources told TOI on Friday. A day after crime branch booked Sukhdev Singh Namdhari for murdering Ponty’s brother Hardeep in a shootout at the Chadhas’ Chhatarpur farmhouse on November 17, investigators said he may have set up the brothers.

Namdhari, sacked chief of Uttarakhand’s minorities commission, was with Ponty at the time of the shootout.

“The questioning of Namdhari, his gunman Sachin Tyagi and Ponty’s security manager Narender Ahlawat points to the possibility of Namdhari creating circumstances for a hostile encounter between the Chadha brothers,” a source said.

Trying to connect the dots of the mystery, sleuths are looking for a link between the shootout and income tax raids at two of Ponty’s properties — Centerstage Mall and a Chhatarpur farmhouse — in February this year. They suspect the raids may have proved a turning point in Ponty’s relationship with Namdhari, who was living in the businessman’s shadow.

It was alleged after the tax raids that Ponty was tipped off by a contact in the IT department. No cash was found, causing acute embarrassment to the tax sleuths. However, police sources suspect the alleged stash of Rs 200 crore was handed over to Namdhari for safekeeping. Ponty is also suspected to have made large real estate deals in Namdhari’s name, including a 50-acre purchase in Uttarakhand. Police now want to find out whether the thought of having to return the cash and properties to Ponty made Namdhari plot against him.

The crime branch, however, has refused to come on record on these theories. “All I can say at this stage is that Namdhari did not call his brother, son and more than three dozen men to Ponty’s farmhouse on November 17 just to occupy it by force. We have received information that he did not return Ponty’s cash hoard, but we did not find the money at his farmhouse. We will draw a conclusion only when we have documentary evidence,” an officer said on condition of anonymity.

A senior unnamed bureaucrat, who was questioned during the raids, is also suspected to be sitting on a part of Ponty’s alleged hoard. Namdhari’s son Surinder and maternal uncle Hardayal, who are wanted for questioning, remain untraceable.

“We suspect Namdhari provoked Ponty to seize the Chhatarpur farmhouse. That’s why he came to Delhi three days before the shootout and arranged the logistics for the November 17 raid. Such elaborate arrangements definitely hint at a bigger conspiracy. He would have known that this brazen act of occupying the two farmhouses, which were part of a Rs 1,500 crore separation deal between the brothers, would enrage Hardeep to the point of taking up arms. He also knew that Hardeep would be accompanied by his men, so he had an army in place,” said a source.

Police are waiting for ballistic and forensic reports to ascertain whether bullets fired by Namdhari and his gunman hit Ponty also. “If this is confirmed, getting the truth out of Namdhari won’t be difficult as he will have no defence left. So far, he has been evasive in his replies,” a senior crime branch officer said.