Bakshish Sidhu, the owner of Basant Forex Ltd., a money exchange company in Canada, has been accused of laundering money in the US for international drug traffickers, including the notorious Sinaloa cartel.
Sidhu is currently featured on the Most Wanted List of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
However, a lawyer representing Sidhu informed that his client learned of the charges against him only a week ago, while the indictment naming Sidhu was filed in California in the year 2015.
The 36-page indictment named 22 other people who were involved in a “hawala” scam in 2012. Several have been convicted in recent years, including the mastermind of the conspiracy, Gurkaran Singh Isshpunani who was sentenced to 18 months of imprisonment.
A court’s order stated, “Drug traffickers in Canada would generate drug proceeds from multi-kilogram and multi-pound sales and distributions of drugs provided by Mexican cartels, including the Sinaloa Cartel. The Canadian-based hawaladars, once in possession of the drug traffickers’ bulk Canadian currency, would contact U.S.-based hawaladars and authorize the release of the equivalent amounts of U.S. currency to the couriers operating in the Los Angeles area.”
The modus operandi
Sidhu is allegedly linked to large transfers of cash allegedly made in 2012. He arranged for the transfer of $522,000 on March 20 of that year.
Detailing out the modus operandi, the indictment read that prior to the transaction, Sidhu spoke repeatedly to a contact in California named Ramesh Singh over a telephonic call in a coded language. The call was to make sure Singh “would have $500,000 available to distribute in Los Angeles to meet a pending order.”
Singh, who has since been convicted already, confirmed to him that the money would be available for delivery that Saturday night. Sidhu called back saying the drug trafficker and his organization had increased the order to $1 million and changed the delivery date.
“Singh responded by noting that he preferred to satisfy the order through two deliveries of $500,000 because a $1 million delivery would look ‘weird’.”
On the morning of the delivery, Singh loaded his car with two cardboard boxes — one marked “Bud Light” and the other “Diet Coke” — “that together contained $522,000 and departed for the scheduled meeting with the courier,” the order stated.
The next day, Sidhu allegedly spoke to Singh again to discuss the transfer of another $600,000.
Sidhu’s side of the story
Sidhu who is said to be shocked after learning about his case has refused to make any comments and is routing all the queries to his lawyer Deepak Chodha.
His lawyer has informed that he is in the process of finding a U.S. lawyer for his client. “As far as Mr. Sidhu is concerned, he is not making any statement,” Chodha said.
“(Sidhu) is an honourable man, and Mr. Sidhu will face whatever music he has to face and will deal with it,” he added.