India's largest real estate developer, DLF, has elaborated on how it offered no preferential treatment to Robert Vadra, son-in-law of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, through a maze of transactions.
Sources in DLF told NDTV that Mr Vadra and his company Skylight Realty were charged penalties for late payments along with interest; the sources also revealed that in one of its housing projects, Mr Vadra bought 15 flats, of which 13 were bought back by DLF. The transactions suggest that Mr Vadra's firm operated as a real estate trader, making mass bookings when the projects were announced, and then re-selling them to either DLF or others - a standard industry practice that can lead to profits for the real estate developer as well as the trader.
Mr Vadra and DLF were accused last week of trading favours by activists Prashant Bhushan and Arvind Kejriwal, who have launched an anti-graft political party. They said that DLF gave Mr Vadra a Rs 65-crore interest-free loan, and a range of lush apartments in Gurgaon, Haryana, at bargain-basement prices. The activists said that in return for the sweetheart deals, the Congress government in Haryana allowed DLF to take over land that was reserved for public projects.
Both Mr Vadra and DLF have dismissed the charges as baseless.
In response to a detailed questionnaire from NDTV, DLF sources stated that not only did Mr Vadra pay market rates for the many apartments he bought from DLF, but that he was also fined for late payments in some cases.
So, they allege, in the case of an apartment in the posh Aralias project in Gurgaon, Mr Vadra paid Rs 11.9 crores, which included penalties and interest for late payments. Mr Kejriwal and Mr Bhushan had accused DLF of selling this flat to Mr Vadra for just Rs 89 lakhs. However, DLF sources clarified that they received a payment of Rs 11.9 crores for the Aralias apartment from Skylight Realty. NDTV has accessed the March 2011 balance sheet of Skylight Realty, which confirms the same.
In June 2008, SkyLight Realty booked 15 flats in the Magnolias project, also in Gurgaon, for Rs 10,000 per square foot. Each flat was on an average about 6,000 square feet, so the price of the apartments worked out to approximately Rs 6 crores each. Three months later, DLF began buying the apartments back. By June 2010, it had bought back 13 of Mr Vadra's 15 flats in this project. In this case, Mr Vadra could not sell his flats to a party other than DLF because being a premium project, the company did not allow these to be sold in the open market, unlike most of its other projects. DLF charged Rs 7 crores as delayed payment interest for the Magnolias apartments, according to the sources.
The DLF sources told NDTV that in June 2009, Mr Vadra's Skylight Realty booked 25 DLF Capital Greens apartments. The asking rate was between Rs 5,000 and Rs 6,000 per square foot, so Mr Vadra paid approximately Rs 60 lakhs per apartment as a sort of advance or booking fee. Skylight Realty was charged an additional Rs 1 crore as delayed payment interest for these apartments, and his company has since resold them all.