Businessman Robert Vadra, brother-in-law of Congress president Rahul Gandhi, was questioned by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) for over five hours Wednesday in connection with a case of alleged money laundering related to properties in the UK. This was the first time Vadra appeared in person before any central probe agency.
He left the ED office at Jamnagar House in New Delhi at 9.40 pm. He will be called for questioning again on Thursday. Vadra’s lawyer Suman Khaitan told reporters that his client had answered all questions and was innocent. “All charges against him are wrong. We will cooperate with the agency 100 per cent,” Khaitan said.
In the afternoon, Vadra’s wife Priyanka Gandhi Vadra accompanied him to the ED office before heading to her new office at the Congress headquarters — she is now a party general secretary. She told reporters: “I stand by my family… everyone can see what is happening.”
The case relates to properties in London which, the ED claims, are linked to Vadra and have been purchased through
absconding arms dealer Sanjay Bhandari. In the past, Vadra has denied any association with any property in London.
On Wednesday, Vadra was questioned about his association with Bhandari and financial transactions, ED sources said. He was also shown documents which, the ED claims, connect him with certain overseas properties.
ED sources claimed the matter is linked to a Petroleum Ministry deal in 2009, during the rule of the UPA, in which alleged kickbacks flowed into a UK-based company named Syntak. The company, the agency said, had Bhandari as its Director.
The ED told a court recently that a property at Bryanston Square in London was bought by Bhandari from money that had flowed into the company. The money was allegedly routed through another company named Vortex, the ED said.
The ED claimed that shortly after the Petroleum Ministry deal, Syntak received close to US $49.9 lakh in its account via a single transaction on June 13, 2009. Bhandari used 1.9 million GBP of this money to buy the London property in 2009, it said.
It alleged that Bhandari subsequently sold it to an entity linked to Vadra in 2010 at the same price despite carrying out renovations of over 65,000 GBP.
The ED told the court that its probe had found several other properties in London that were suspected to be linked to Vadra. The agency also cited an email exchange where renovation of the London property was being discussed.
Last Saturday, Vadra was granted interim protection from arrest until February 16 and was told to appear before the ED on February 6.
Senior advocate K T S Tulsi, representing Vadra, told the court that his client is being “subjected to a farce of criminal prosecution which actually is beset with nothing else except political vendetta and most unfortunately the respondent being the law enforcement agency is a party to the unethical and illegal exercise”.