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Loan fraud case: Hilal Rather rebuts charges made by J-K ACB

New Delhi, Mar 7 (PTI) The family of Hilal Rather, booked in a Rs 177-crore bank loan fraud case by the CBI, has rebutted the charges made by the Jammu and Kashmir Anti Corruption Bureau, including funds being transferred to subversive elements.

A statement issued by the legal counsel of Hilal Rather, the son of former Jammu and Kashmir Finance Minister Abdul Rahim Rather, on Saturday said 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.

'The agency claims there are 'international ramifications' and a 'possibility of stashing of funds and diversion of funds to subversive elements',' it said.

It said the agency has resorted to baseless insinuations after investigating a matter for nine months which is nothing but a tacit admission of their failure and an attempt to wash their hands off the case by handing it over to another agency, the CBI, so that the case can be kept alive in the media trial rooms, it said.

The case has been handed over to the CBI by the Jammu and Kashmir ACB which has re-registered the FIR in the matter, they said.

In the reasons for transferring the case, the ACB had said possibility of diversion of loan funds 'to subversive elements cannot be ruled out.' The statement questioned the nine-month long ACB probe which failed to identify officials of Jammu and Kashmir Bank who had conspired with Rather's company Paradise Avenue.

'It is clearly evident that the agency has completely failed in establishing any conspiracy between Paradise Avenue and the officials of J&K Bank because it never existed,' it said.

'Were there any ghost identities operating in the bank, both during and after the regime of National Conference Govt., who cannot be brought to light even after such a prolonged and rigorous investigations?' it asked.

It said though there are four more partners in Paradise Avenue -- Daljeet Wadhera, Deepshikha Jamwal, Rizwan Dar and Ghulam Mohd. Bhatt -- who collectively hold around 70 per cent stakes in the firm and were actively involved in the operations of the business, why is it that only Rather has been arrested and subjugated to custodial interrogation.

The statement said the ACB has not even genuine sponsorships and business promotion expenses and made it a part of so-called diversion of funds.

'Benevolent acts as a responsible corporate citizen of the state of taking under privileged and aspiring professional cricketers of the state for a cricket tour have been tainted despite the fact that the first initiative was organised in association with J&K Police,' it said.

The statement said if indeed Rs 26 crore was diverted from the project, then how is it that more money than the Rs 128 crore provided by the bank for construction has been spent on it? 'Out of the total outstanding loan amount of Rs 177 crore, the principal component of the loan for the construction of the project was only around Rs 128 crore, the rest being interest component during the construction period,' it said.

Anyone with some idea of construction costs in prefabricated steel structures can vouch that more than Rs 150 crore has been spent on the project which can be easily corroborated through a valuation of the constructed project by independent experts, the statement said.

'Regarding the false accusation of existence of properties in the UAE and the US it is incumbent on the agencies to liquidate them and make public money good without wasting a single moment but it would not happen as no such property exists,' it said.

The ACB had alleged that four loans were sanctioned to the firm without any collateral or receiving the payment for the earlier loans.

'It needs to be explained that how is it that the bank provided the financial support...twice even when an adverse political regime was in power and no so called influence could have been used by any of the partners of Paradise Avenue,' it said.

The statement said one-time settlement of Rs 50 crore was not availed as the bank had suo motu cancelled the offer vide its letter dated 20th of October 2018. PTI ABS SMN SMN