Even as Robert Vadra, husband of Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi, claimed before a Delhi court on Monday that the Enforcement Directorate (ED) has been leaking details of his interrogation to the media to "humiliate" him on account of a "political vendetta", the probe agency continues to tighten the noose, while denying such allegations.
The ED has alleged that Vadra and his associates received kickbacks in a UPA regime petroleum deal between state-run Oil & Natural Gas Corporation and Samsung Engineering, the proceeds of which were used to buy several plush properties in London of which Vadra is the "ultimate beneficiary".
The agency yesterday produced documents in court purportedly showing agreements between absconding arms dealer Sanjay Bhandari, who is an alleged associate of Vadra's, and the company, The Economic Times reported. The ED alleged that Bhandari entered into a "contingent contract" seeking kickbacks of $10 million to swing the deal. Sources in the know told the daily that the kickbacks were to be paid in two equal instalments to Bhandari's company.
The ED claims to have received information about various new properties in London that allegedly belong to Congress President Rahul Gandhi's brother-in-law, including two houses of five and four million pounds each along with six flats. It alleges that the properties were purchased for Vadra by Bhandari's companies and some other associates through a web of companies. Hence, it is seeking Vadra's custodial interrogation in relation to this money-laundering case.
The daily added that the ED also referred to another Rs 2,896-crore defence deal to procure 75 Pilatus PC-7 basic trainer aircraft for the Indian Air Force in 2012. The propeller-driven aircraft were an emergency purchase after the air force training schedule went haywire following the grounding of the entire fleet of the 114 piston-engine HPT-32 planes, after a 2009 crash that killed a pilot. The CBI began its probe into this deal after it was found that Bhandari's company had allegedly received 7,50,000 Swiss Francs from the Swiss Pilatus company in 2010. The Delhi Police also registered an FIR against Bhandari under the Official Secrets Act in October 2016.
During Monday's hearing on Vadra's anticipatory bail plea, senior advocates Abhishek Manu Singhvi and KTS Tulsi appearing for Vadra alleged that the ED was guided by the "lust for custody". This prompted ED's counsel DP Singh to vehemently counter the allegation saying, "It is their 'lust for money' which has led to our 'lust for custody'". Singh further submitted that he requires more time to conclude his arguments and to present certain details before the court.
The special court has extended Vadra's interim protection from arrest to Wednesday, when the ED is expected to submit evidence justifying its demand for his custodial interrogation. The agency has maintained that there was reasonable apprehension that Vadra being a highly influential person would tamper with the evidence and hamper the investigation. The court also extended the interim protection from arrest granted to
Manoj Arora, another of Vadra's close aides and an accused in the case, till the next hearing, scheduled for tomorrow
Meanwhile, the Delhi High Court on Monday asked the ED to file its response to another petition filed by Vadra seeking the quashing of the money-laundering case against him. The agency opposed Vadra's plea saying it was an abuse of process of law and was not maintainable as he "wilfully suppressed" material facts from the court. "When he feared that law will catch him, he challenged the PMLA provisions," it said. A bench of justices Hima Kohli and Vinod Goel asked the ED to file its response in the form of an affidavit regarding the maintainability of two separate but similar petitions by Vadra and his close aide Manoj Arora within two weeks. The court listed the matter for further hearing on May 2.
With PTI inputs