New Delhi/Nagpur: Whether a controversial arms dealer bought a “benami” or proxy-owned mansion in London for Robert Vadra in 2009 is the focus of an investigative report that is being reviewed by the Finance Ministry. The inquiry quotes from emails allegedly sent by Robert Vadra, whose mother-in-law Sonia Gandhi, heads the Congress, and his executive assistant, Manoj Arora, as also the questioning of defence dealer Sanjay Bhandari.
Robert Vadra’s lawyers have flatly denied the charges.
Last month, enforcement agencies raided 18 premises owned by Sanjay Bhandari. Two preliminary reports prepared by enforcement and tax officials after those raids have been accessed exclusively by NDTV; they state that Robert Vadra and his executive assistant sent several emails discussing payments and renovations for the London home (12 Ellerton House, Bryanston Square) bought for 19 lakh GBP (Rs. 19 crores) in October 2009 and sold in June 2010.
Mr Vadra’s lawyers have said he “does not own directly or indirectly, an house described by you as No 12, Ellerton House, Bryanston Square, London” and that Mr Vadra and his assistant “have not entered into any transaction of a financial nature with Mr Sanjay Bhandari and are not even aware that Mr Sanjay Bhandari is involved in any defense transaction.”
Two different preliminary reports, seen by NDTV, say Mr Vadra’s emails, as well as those of his assistant Manoj Arora, were sent to Sumit Chadda, a relative of Mr Bhandari’s based in London.
One report says, “There was an email dated 4.04.2010 in which Sumit Chadda reported the progress of work of renovation and repair work to Robert Vadra and asked for reimbursement of expenses.”
The report then quotes Mr Vadra replying to Mr Chadda saying “He would look into the issue” and added that his “secretary” Manoj will be “in touch”. Thereafter, the report says, “Subsequently Mr Manoj kept in touch with Sumit Chadda using an email ID ‘Exim Real Estate'”.
Government officers who spoke to NDTV on the condition of anonymity say the emails exchanged also refer to redecorating the property, including its chandeliers.
“It is shocking but not surprising,” said BJP parliamentarian Kirit Somaiya to NDTV. “I would approach the Enforcement Directorate, Income Tax, and request them to check the property and any non-transparency in the transaction.”
Mr Bhandari is the the owner of Offset India Solutions (OIS). A covert Intelligence Bureau report had red-flagged his business dealings in 2014 right after the Modi government took office and advised the Defence Ministry to keep him at a distance.
The report says that “Sanjay Bhandari was specifically questioned whether Robert Vadra was the beneficiary of the sale of the Bryanston Square property in London. He did not deny the same but avoided a direct answer by stating that he would he able to confirm it by referring it to sale deed kept with his lawyer in London.”
Mr Bhandari, government officers say, tried to destroy his BlackBerry phone during the raids. However, they were able to recover data from his handset and his computers. Mr Bhandari’s public relations office asked NDTV for a detailed questionnaire which was sent to them, but they have yet to respond.
Mr Bhandari formed OIS in 2008 with a paid-up capital of only one lakh rupees. Its rapid escalation into a multi-crore venture caught the attention of financial crime investigators. He is now being investigated for financial violations linked to 35 suspected shell companies between 2009 and 2014. Recently, OIS won a deal to supply parts for 38 combat aircraft that India is buying from Dassault Aviation.
Mr Vadra is being investigated for land deals in Haryana while the Congress governed the state to determine if he got special discounts and other benefits that allowed him windfall gain. He has denied any wrongdoing.
As Published in NDTV.com