The Enforcement Directorate Friday searched the premises of three persons linked to firms of Robert Vadra, brother-in-law of Congress president Rahul Gandhi, in connection with alleged commissions received by some suspects in defence deals, agency officials said. The Congress, however, said an office of Vadra too had been searched.
Describing the searches as “politics of revenge and malicious vendetta”, Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said “officers of ED raided the offices of Mr Vadra and residence of his associates without any FIR or search warrant”. He linked the searches to the assembly polls, saying “sure shot defeat in 5 States” had “unnerved” the government.
Surjewala alleged that the ED raided the house of the father-in-law of one Manoj, an employee of Vadra. “His name is Ramesh Kumar Sharma, a 64-year-old man. They have illegally raided his house without a warrant and detained him and his wife for seven hours and ransacked his house.” He said Sharma is a vice-president of Hindustan Times.
Vadra’s lawyer Suman Khaitan, in a statement posted by Vadra on his Facebook page, referred to the searches at Sukhdev Vihar in New Delhi and said these were carried out by ED officers from Jaipur and Delhi. “We apprehend that they are going to plant false, fabricated and incriminating material in Shri Robert Vadra’s office as also exercise illegal coercion to create undue harassment and pressure,” he said.
Khaitan maintained that “Vadra has adhered to notice/summon by every agency for several years and supplied every document asked for and co-operated fully. The last two sets of documents running over 600 pages were furnished to ED on 26.11.2018 and 15.12.2018”.
The searches, ED officials said, were carried out in Delhi-NCR and Bengaluru, and were also related to cases of assets held abroad. “The searches at the premises of the three persons linked to firms of Vadra were related to alleged commissions received by some suspects in defence deals,” an ED official claimed.
The ED did not specify the defence deals but in 2016 a case under the Official Secrets Act was registered when officials of the Income Tax department searched defence consultant Sanjay Bhandari’s house in New Delhi. During the search, the I-T reportedly recovered photocopies of classified documents of the Ministry of Defence.
The I-T also recovered emails from Bhandari’s computers that allegedly revealed his links to Vadra, with cryptic references to a London property. But Vadra’s lawyers later denied any “direct or indirect” link with the property.
The searches came a week after ED officials said Vadra had been summoned by the agency for questioning in connection with the Bikaner land deal case. Vadra was told to appear in person before the ED in the first week of December.
On November 30, The Indian Express reported that the ED, investigating a web of controversial land transactions in Bikaner involving Vadra’s companies, had asked the Income Tax Settlement Commission for details on its proceedings in the case related to Bhushan Power and Steel Limited (BPSL) which gave a loan to a company that bought land owned by Vadra’s firm at seven times its acquisition cost.
Two months ago, the then ED Director, Karnal Singh, wrote to the Settlement Commission asking for details of the file that contains deliberations on the BPSL case and the order that was reserved. He also asked for details of the reconstituted bench that is alleged to have diluted the order to provide relief to BPSL.