Making the first arrests in its probe into alleged money laundering in the Bikaner land scandal, the Enforcement Directorate Friday said it had held two persons, one of whom it identified as a close associate of an “authorised representative” of Skylight Hospitality Pvt Ltd of Robert Vadra, brother-in-law of Congress president Rahul Gandhi.
Jaiprakash Bagarwa and Ashok Kumar were arrested Thursday evening by the ED which said Kumar was the driver of Faridabad resident Mahesh Nagar who had earlier effected land purchases for Skylight Hospitality in the Kolayat area of Bikaner. The land, bought at low prices, was allegedly sold later at a very high rate.
Sources in the ED claimed that Kumar had admitted that money for the deal had been wired through his bank account.
The ED case is based on FIRs filed by Rajasthan police in 2015. “Rajasthan Police had filed 18 chargesheets initially and later on two more chargesheets were filed by the state police making Ashok Kumar as an accused among others. Ashok Kumar was used as conduit by Mahesh Nagar (authorised representative M/s Skylight Hospitality Pvt Ltd) who knew the fraudulent nature of land,” an ED statement said.
According to ED, Skylight Hospitality purchased 69.55 hectare for Rs 72 lakh and sold it to Allegeny Finlease Private Limited for Rs 5.15 crore, earning a profit of Rs 4.43 crore.
“M/s Allegeny Finlease Pvt Ltd as a company is not involved in any real business activity and many of its share holders were found to be dummy/nonexistent during investigation,” the ED statement said.
According to ED, the Kolayat land scandal is a case of alleged land grabbing where people, in collusion with state government officials, got large tracts of land allotted in the name of fictitious individuals. The land, the agency said, was actually earmarked for people who had been displaced by the creation of the Mahajan field firing range.
The ED had earlier questioned Nagar and Kumar and even searched the Faridabad house of Nagar. Movable and immovable properties worth Rs 1.18 crore have already been attached in the case.
On August 22, after referring the matter to CBI, Rajasthan Home Minister Gulab Chand Kataria had said: “As many as 18 FIRs are registered. Four of them are against Vadra’s company which were allegedly involved in illegal purchase of nearly 275 bigha land. All the 18 FIRs are in connection with the purchase of close to 1,400 bigha land in fake names.”
Lawyers for Vadra have denied any wrongdoing.
Responding to the Rajasthan government’s move, state Congress president Sachin Pilot had said, “BJP misuses CBI, ED and other agencies for political gains. In this alleged land scam case, the state government had formed a committee but the committee’s findings were not disclosed by the government. Those who have been arrested in the land scam are connected with BJP. If BJP people are being arrested in the land scam, then we are ready for any probe.”