New Delhi: Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju has denied any links with arms dealer Sanjay Bhandari. He has also backed his aide Appa Rao, who had exchanged 355 phone calls with Mr Bhandari over the last year, according to documents collected in raids last month on the defence dealer.
- Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju denies links with arms dealer
- Mr Raju backs aide Appa Rao who spoke to arms dealer Sanjay Bhandari
- Sanjay Bhandari is being probed for buying benami house for Robert Vadra
Mr Bhandari is being investigated for allegedly buying a proxy-owned house for Robert Vadra in London. The Congress - whose chief Sonia Gandhi is the mother-in-law of Mr Vadra -- has accused the BJP of playing down its own links with Mr Bhandari, while pointing fingers at the Gandhis.
"If anyone has a clandestine deal with me I want to know how they have it. My job is to see nothing clandestine is going on," said Mr Raju, who is a member of the Telugu Desam Party, an ally of the BJP.
Mr Raju said his Officer on Special Duty, Appa Rao, would remain in his post "as long as I have confidence in him".
Appa Rao has denied that he had spoken to Mr Bhandari hundreds of times. He also told NDTV, "I have no personal relationship with the fellow. If at all, there is a professional relationship."
The minister's aide has said that Mr Bhandari visited Mr Raju at his office on three or four occasions. The minister met him professionally as Mr Bhandari is in the business of procuring aircraft parts, Mr Rao said.
The Congress has also accused the BJP's Sidharth Nath Singh of links with the arms dealer. Sidharth Nath Singh told NDTV that he has nothing to hide, saying, "It's a social relationship and friendship, certainly not a business relationship. Since the Congress has asked for an investigation into this, I must say that I have absolutely no issues with it. Please go ahead and carry out an investigation."
Robert Vadra's lawyers have denied that he directly or indirectly owned the London property and have said he has no association with Mr Bhandari.