The Enforcement Directorate (ED) raided the Delhi office of Robert Vadra, the brother-in-law of Congress president Rahul Gandhi, and the residences of two associates in an unexpected move on Friday. The businessman's legal team reacted by terming the raids as an attempt to plant "manufactured evidence" that can be fraudulently used against him.
Mr Vadra's lawyer Suman Khaitan alleged that ED officials raided the property around 9 am and, in a dictatorial fashion, confined the employees to the premises. "They locked staffers of Skylight Hospitality inside, and they are not letting anybody meet them. Isn't this Nazism? Is this a jail?" he asked mediapersons.
Mr Khaitan also claimed that the ED officials did not have the mandatory search warrant, essentially making the exercise "illegal". "They have not found any evidence in the last four-and-a-half years. So they wanted to come, lock the door and plant evidence today. They are going to lose the elections, and to divert attention, they will claim that they found the evidence, which is actually manufactured and planted," Khaitan told mediapersons here.
The raids were reportedly conducted as part of an investigation into alleged commissions received in connection with defence deals, official sources said. According to sources, Mr Vadra's associates in Bengaluru were also targeted on the day.
The lawyer said the properties targeted by ED officers included his client's Sukhdev Vihar office and the residences of two associates. "It is completely illegal -- they did not even wait for the staff to open my client's office despite being required by the law to do so. They broke the locks and entered the office. They also broke open the locks of all the cabins in the office. ED officers have been inside the office since 8-9 am, but they have permitted neither lawyers nor representatives into the office," he claimed in a Facebook post.
The Congress reacted to the raids soon afterwards, claiming that the BJP was resorting to unsavoury activities in the face of an impending defeat in the ongoing assembly polls. "Sure-shot defeat in 5 states unnerves Modi govt; unleashing revenge and vendetta against Robert Vadra to divert narrative," tweeted party spokesperson Randeep Surjewala.
Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah also questioned the timing of the raids, carried out on a day when various media organisations were announcing the exit poll results for the just-concluded assembly elections. "The Enforcement Directorate has done a damn fine job taking attention away from the exit polls, maha polls & polls of polls," he tweeted.
Earlier, the BJP had alleged that the UPA government ditched its version of the Rafale aircraft deal with France when the latter refused to oblige a "middleman" picked by Mr Vadra. The accusation was denied by the businessman.
(With inputs from Agencies)