The Enforcement Directorate (ED) today said it has arrested two persons in connection with its money laundering probe in the Bikaner land scam case. The agency identified the arrested duo as Jaiprakash Bagarwa and Ashok Kumar. “Ashok Kumar is a close associate of Mahesh Nagar of Ms Skylight Hospitality Private Limited,” it said.
They have been arrested under the PMLA law, it said. Skylight hospitality is a firm that has been alleged to be linked to Robert Vadra, the brother-in-law of Congress President Rahul Gandhi. The agency had searched the premises of Kumar and Nagar in April this year.
It had said that in four cases of land purchase in Bikaner by this firm that is alleged to be linked to Vadra, the “authorised representative” was Nagar. Kumar, it has been alleged by the agency, purchased land in the same area using the “power of attorney” of others. It is also alleged that Kumar is a “close associate” of Nagar.
The ED probe is related to the purchase of 275 bigha land allegedly by the company in the Kolayat area of the border town of Bikaner in Rajasthan, few years back. The ED had also attached assets worth Rs 1.18 crore of government officials and others in connection with the case under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).
The ED had registered a criminal case under the PMLA in this matter in 2015, taking cognisance of FIRs filed by the state police after the local Tehsildar had complained of alleged forgery. The agency, in this case, had also issued notices to the said firm linked to Vadra and has obtained certain documents from it. However, the ED has not mentioned the name of Vadra or any company linked to him in its FIR filed.
In the FIR, it had named some Rajasthan government officials and the “land mafia”. Vadra had denied any wrongdoing even as the Congress called the action “sheer political vendetta”. The Rajasthan government had in January, 2015 cancelled the mutation (transfer of land) of 374.44 hectares of land, after the land department claimed to have found that the allotments were made in the names of “illegal private persons”.
The tehsildar had said in the complaint that the government land in 34 villages of Bikaner, to be used for expanding the army’s firing range in the area, was “grabbed” by the land mafia by preparing “forged and fabricated documents” in connivance with government officials. ED suspects that huge amounts of money was laundered in this case by people buying land at cheap rates through forged documents.
The state government had, while cancelling the mutations, said these were not issued by the Commissioner, Colonisation, Bikaner. The state police had also filed charge sheets in the 18 cases in a court in Kolayat.