BARELY A month before the Enforcement Directorate issued a notice under provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) to Sky Light Hospitality Pvt Ltd, owned by Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law Robert Vadra, he had converted the private limited company to a limited liability partnership (LLP).
Private limited companies need to comply with extensive regulatory requirements, but a limited liability partnership only needs to file its annual returns and statements of account and solvency. Even auditing is not a mandatory requirement for LLPs, which enjoy further flexibility in functions, such as ease of dissolution, etc (see box).
According to records maintained by the Registrar of Companies (RoC), Sky Light Hospitality LLP came into being on May 13, 2016, with Vadra and his mother Maureen Vadra as directors. The records also show that the new entity’s listed address in Delhi — 268 Sukhdev Vihar — is the same as that of Sky Light Hospitality Pvt Ltd registered in 2007.
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Responding to a request for comment by The Sunday Express, Robert Vadra’s office stated in an email on Wednesday that it had been referred to the company’s lawyers and chartered accountants. “They will examine the same and will revert in due course,” said spokesperson Manoj Arora in the email.
On Wednesday, Vadra’s wife Priyanka Vadra had confirmed that the firm linked to her husband had received an ED notice in connection with alleged money-laundering in a land deal in Bikaner.
In its notice, ED asked Sky Light to submit financial statements and other documents related to the reported purchase of 275 bighas in the Kolayat area. Last year, the agency had registered a criminal case of money-laundering on the basis of FIRs based on a complaint lodged by the local tehsildar.
Other companies set up by Vadra and his mother have witnessed similar changes in structure. On April 24, 2015, the duo set up Blue Breeze Trading LLP and subsequently dissolved Blue Breeze Trading Pvt Ltd, another company linked to the controversial land deals in Bikaner.
Records show that the duo started converting their Pvt Ltd companies into LLPs in January 2015, when they set up Real Earth Estates LLP and North India IT Parks LLP. In July 2015, they dissolved the original entities, Real Earth Estates Pvt Ltd and North India IT Parks Pvt Ltd.
As reported by The Indian Express on November 28, 2014, three companies owned and controlled by Vadra made profits up to 600 per cent within three years of investment in real estate in Bikaner.
The three Vadra firms — Sky Light Realty Pvt Ltd, Sky Light Hospitality Pvt Ltd and Blur Breeze Trading Pvt Ltd — sold land in 2012 at three to seven times the price they bought it for in 2009-10.
In January 2010, Sky Light Hospitality Pvt Ltd bought 69.55 hectares in two deals for Rs 72 lakh — at a little over Rs 1 lakh per hectare. In January 2012, it sold the land in two separate deals to Delhi’s Allegeny Finlease Pvt Ltd for Rs 5 crore — at Rs 7.41 lakh per hectare, seven times the price paid two years ago.
In four deals in June 2012, Sky Light Hospitality purchased nearly 70 hectares at an average of Rs 80,000 per hectare — less than what it paid in 2009.
In January 2013, the company sold a plot for Rs 6 lakh to Meetu Agarwal of Bikaner, ostensibly to bring down the company’s holding below the ceiling limit.
Subsequently, the Rajasthan government in January 2015 cancelled the mutation (transfer of land) of 374.44 hectares, after the state land department claimed to have found that the allotments were made in the names of “illegal private persons”.