The Income Tax Department Wednesday searched multiple premises in possession of former Congress MLA Lalit Nagar and his brother Mahesh Nagar, a former aide of Congress chief Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law Robert Vadra. Following the searches, I-T officials claimed they now have evidence of a money trail linked to the purchase of sizable tracts of land in Rajasthan’s Bikaner district.
The searches, I-T officials said, were conducted in the morning in connection with alleged money laundering and benami landholdings in Bikaner. Earlier, properties belonging to the Nagar brothers were searched by the Enforcement Directorate and the I-T Department in April 2017 and October 2019 respectively.
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It is alleged that Mahesh Nagar pooled land for Vadra in Rajasthan and Haryana, and also helped Dubai-based businessman C C Thampi, accused along with Vadra in a case of alleged money laundering, acquire land in Amipur village in Faridabad district of Haryana.
While Nagar was not reachable for comments on Wednesday, he had earlier admitted to pooling land for Vadra and Thampi, while maintaining that he was being “victimised” for his “supposed” links to Vadra long after he had stopped working for him. Vadra, on his part, had called the ED actions a political witch-hunt.
In Rajasthan’s Bikaner, Nagar allegedly used his maternal uncle Rishipal, driver Devraj and office staffer Ashok Kumar to pool land from individual owners. In January 2010, Vadra’s Sky Light Hospitality acquired 69.55 hectares of this land in two deals for a total of Rs 72 lakh, at a little over Rs 1 lakh per hectare.
As first reported by The Indian Express, Sky Light Hospitality sold the land in two deals to Allegeny Finlease Pvt Ltd in January 2012 for Rs 5.15 crore — at Rs 7.41 lakh per hectare, seven times the purchase price paid two years ago.
While Mahesh Nagar, the authorised representative of several companies linked to Vadra, purchased and sold the land on behalf of Sky Light Hospitality, his staffer Ashok Kumar and a Bikaner-based real estate agent sold the two parcels of land, under power of attorney from local landowners, to Nagar in 2010.
The ED began probing the Bikaner land deals in 2015 and summoned Nagar for questioning. He moved court but got no reprieve and, in December 2016, was told to appear before the agency. Details of the Bikaner land deals have since been handed over by the ED to the I-T investigation unit.
Subsequently, in September 2018, the ED asked the Income Tax Settlement Commission for details in the case related to Bhushan Power and Steel Limited which gave a loan to Allegeny Finlease, allegedly a shell company, that bought parcels of Vadra’s Bikaner land from Nagar, the power of attorney holder, at seven times its acquisition cost.
Nagar also figures in the ED probe into a clutch of land deals in Haryana linked to a case of alleged money laundering against Vadra and Thampi.
As reported by The Indian Express, land records showed that Thampi bought land from Nagar in Faridabad’s Amipur village. Between 2005 and 2008, Thampi, his Holiday Citi Centre Pvt Ltd, Vadra and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra purchased adjacent tracts of agricultural land in Amipur. At least one of these plots was in possession (kashtkari) of Nagar when Thampi’s Holiday Citi Centre Pvt Ltd purchased it.
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