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ED raids premises linked to Uttarakhand Congress leader Harak Singh Rawat in forest scam case

Harak Singh Rawat
Harak Singh Rawat

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Wednesday conducted searches at 17 locations in Delhi, Uttarakhand, and Chandigarh in connection with a forest scam case linked to Uttarakhand Congress leader and former minister Harak Singh Rawat.

The ED raids were based on a case registered by the Uttarakhand Vigilance Department in 2023 against Rawat and some of his departmental officers for alleged irregularities in the construction of Pakhro Safari in the Corbett Tiger Reserve (CTR) when he was the forest minister in the then BJP government.

According to the ED, the case involves illegal felling of thousands of trees, financial misappropriation, and unauthorized construction in the Pakhro Tiger Reserve range of CTR. The agency said it has initiated a money laundering investigation under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) against Rawat and others.

The ED also said that it has seized several incriminating documents, digital devices, and cash during the searches. The agency claimed that it has found evidence of diversion of funds from the forest department to various entities owned or controlled by Rawat and his family members.

Rawat, who joined the Congress in 2022 after quitting the BJP ahead of the assembly polls, has denied any wrongdoing and termed the ED action as a political vendetta. He said he has cooperated with the ED and provided all the relevant documents.

The forest scam case came to light after the Forest Survey of India (FSI) reported in 2021 that over 6,000 trees were illegally cut in the CTR for the Pakhro tiger safari, despite only 163 trees being permitted. The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) and the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) also conducted inspections and found violations of various forest and wildlife laws and rules.

The Uttarakhand High Court took a strict stand in the case and directed the state government to take action against the culprits and recover the losses caused to the environment. The court also ordered a CBI probe into the matter, which is pending before the Supreme Court.

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