Enforcement Directorate alleges that Robert Vadra owns nine properties in the UK - directly or by proxy
New Delhi: Businessman Robert Vadra, the brother-in-law of Congress chief Rahul Gandhi, was questioned for about nine hours on Thursday in a money laundering case by the Enforcement Directorate. Yesterday, the probe agency quizzed Mr Vadra on allegations that he illegally owns nine properties, cumulatively worth 12 million pounds (Rs 110 crore), in London. On Thursday, the agency focussed on his links with the main players in the case - controversial arms dealer Sanjay Bhandari, his nephew, and two others, sources said. Mr Vadra has denied the allegations, calling it a political witch-hunt. Coming months ahead of the national elections, his questioning has become another flashpoint between the government and the opposition. Mr Vadra, who left the agency this evening with wife Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, has been asked to appear before the Enforcement Directorate again on Saturday.
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The Enforcement Directorate alleges that Robert Vadra owns nine properties in the UK - directly or by proxy -- bought illegally through kickbacks received in petroleum deals when the UPA government was in power. The properties were purchased between 2005 and 2010, sources have said.
The agency has filed a case of money laundering in the purchase of a property worth 1.9 million pounds (over Rs 17.77 crore) located at 12, Bryanston Square, London, which allegedly belongs to Robert Vadra.
The Enforcement Directorate today showed Mr Vadra some emails allegedly between him and the key players in the case, including Sanjay Bhandari and his London-based relative Sumit Chadha. The email exchanges took place between June 2009 and October 2010, sources said.
The e-mails, which NDTV has accessed, are about the 12, Bryanston Square mansion for which Sumit Chadha purportedly asks for funds for renovation. It also had a response, purportedly from Mr Vadra, which says "Will look into it in the morning and let Manoj sort it out". NDTV cannot verify the authenticity of the e-mails.
Manoj, sources say, is Manoj Arora, a former employee of Skylight Hospitality, a firm linked to Mr Vadra. His role was detected during the investigations against Sanjay Bhandari by the Income Tax Department and a money laundering case has been filed against him.
The ED said the Bryanston Square mansion, purchased by proxy in 2009, was sold in 2010 for the same amount, despite an additional expense of approximately 65,900 pounds (Rs 60.85 lakh) for its renovation.
Besides the Bryanston Square mansion, two more properties worth 4 million pounds (around Rs 37.42 crore) and 5 million pounds (more than Rs 46.77 crore), as well as 6 other flats are also suspected to be owned by Mr Vadra, sources in the agency said. The total value of these properties is around 12 million pounds (more than Rs 110 crore).
The ED claims the money from kickbacks that Mr Vadra received in a petroleum deal cut in 2009, was allegedly transferred to Santech International, FZC, a company based in UAE. Santech then purchased the 12 Bryanstone Square mansion from Vortex, a private holding. Later, Vortex shares were transferred to Skylight Investment, FZE, which is led by NRI businessman C Thampi, sources said.
Mr Vadra's lawyer KTS Tulsi said, "The first principle of any investigation is that it is confidential. But th ED here is leaking information as they know they've nothing to be investigated.They are calling people only to bring bad name to them".
The Congress is fighting the amped up BJP allegations of corruption. Yesterday, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who has entered active politics, dropped her husband outside the ED office in central Delhi, saying "I stand by my husband". Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee spoke up in support of Congress, saying, "There is no serious case, nothing... We stand together, we are united".