The row over the sale of M F Husain’s Rajiv Gandhi painting by Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi to then Yes Bank CEO Rana Kapoor has escalated with officials of the Enforcement Directorate saying the transaction was being considered as part of “proceeds of crime” in the bank fraud case.
Moreover, Priyanka, sources told The Indian Express, was likely to be questioned by the ED after the round of summoning of major debtors and industrialists. Kapoor is currently in custody.
A senior official monitoring the Yes Bank case told The Indian Express: “The Rs 2 crore paid by Rana Kapoor to Priyanka Gandhi was received by him from the bank shortly before he gave it to her and thus becomes part of our investigation into the case. Both the buyer and the seller could attract action under Section 3 of the PMLA Act.”
Under this Section of the PMLA (Prevention of Money Laundering Act), whosoever directly or indirectly was “connected with the proceeds of crime and (was) projecting it as untainted property shall be guilty of the offence of money laundering.”
The painting was gifted by Husain to Rajiv Gandhi when he was Prime Minister and on the eve of the Congress party’s centenary celebrations.
The Rs 2 crore withdrawn by Rana Kapoor and paid by cheque to Priyanka Gandhi in 2010 was already a subject matter of an ongoing probe by the Income Tax (IT) Department, sources said.
It was only after ED searches at the residence of Rana Kapoor in Mumbai on March 6 and after seizure of the painting that IT sleuths were informed that the Rs 2-crore transaction was linked to the painting.
It is also learnt that during the search, it was Rana Kapoor himself who “guided” members of the ED’s raiding party to the painting.
Sources said that when he was asked how he procured the Rajiv Gandhi painting, the banker produced copies of messages exchanged between him and former Congress MP Milind Deora, a letter of acknowledgement and thanks from Priyanka Gandhi, and a copy of the Rs 2-crore cheque signed by him on June 3, 2010.
The material handed over by Rana Kapoor included copies of Blackberry messages between him and Deora between May 25, 2010 and June 6, 2010.
There is a letter from Deora to Kapoor stating that the banker had “expressed a desire” to purchase the Rajiv Gandhi painting and how “Yes Bank purchasing it seems to make sense” given the fact that he was an avid art collector.
In her letter to the banker, Priyanka refers to the “historical value” of the painting and says she hopes that as its new owner, Kapoor would “ensure its placement in an environment that befits its stature.”
The MF Husain now sits among the other valuables seized by ED from Rana Kapoor’s residence. Following reports on its sale by Priyanka Gandhi, Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi had stated that, “the entire amount of Rs 2 crore was received in cheque and disclosed fully in income tax returns by Priyanka Gandhi.”
Asked about the possibility of the transaction being clubbed together along with other “proceeds of crime” in the bank fraud case, K T S Tulsi, MP and Gandhi family lawyer, said this was illegal. Speaking to The Indian Express, he said: “How can this be said to be among proceeds of crime? This is purely a private commercial transaction and if the Congress party has said it was declared to Income tax, we have to believe them. By no stretch of imagination can the transaction become part of any money laundering activity.”
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