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Tuesday, July 23, 2024

ED probes land transactions of Priyanka Gandhi, Robert Vadra

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NEW DELHI, Dec 28: Purchase of three plots of land in Haryana in 2005-06 by Congress leader Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law Robert Vadra from a real estate agent is being probed along with a land deal made by his wife Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) claimed in a recently filed money laundering case charge sheet.

The federal agency filed the charge sheet (prosecution complaint) in November before a Delhi court against UAE-based NRI businessman C C Thampi, who is allegedly linked to Robert Vadra, and Sumit Chadha, a relative of alleged middleman Sanjay Bhandari.

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Though Robert Vadra and Priyanka Gandhi, a Congress general secretary, have not been named as accused in the charge sheet, this is the first time that Gandhi has been named in a charge sheet filed before a court.

A special Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) court in Delhi took cognisance of this charge sheet on December 22 and listed the matter for next hearing on January 29, 2024.

Bhandari fled to the UK in 2016 and the British government approved his extradition to India in January this year acting on a legal request made by the ED and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

The two federal agencies are probing charges of money laundering and tax evasion against the alleged middleman for holding alleged undisclosed assets abroad.

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The ED stated in the charge sheet that it came across the land purchase and sale transactions of the Vadras after it registered a Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) case against 67-year-old Thampi in 2015. A ‘long and thick relationship’ existed between Robert Vadra and Thampi, the agency said.

Robert Vadra has been questioned by the agency in this case in the past and he had denied any wrongdoing.

Thampi, the ED said, had purchased about 486 acres of land between 2005 and 2008 in Amirpur village in Haryana’s Faridabad district through H L Pahwa, a real estate agent based in Delhi-NCR.

“It is imperative to mention that Robert Vadra also purchased three pieces of land measuring 334 kanals (40.08 acres) in Amirpur from H L Pahwa from 2005-2006 and sold the same land to H L Pahwa in December 2010,” it said in the charge sheet.

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“Further, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, wife of Robert Vadra, also purchased agricultural land measuring 40 kanal (05 acres) in village Amirpur, district Faridabad, Haryana, from H L Pahwa in April 2006 and sold the same land to H L Pahwa in February 2010,” the ED stated.

It said “Pahwa was receiving cash out of the books for the purpose of acquisition of land”. “It was also noticed that Robert Vadra did not pay the entire consideration to Pahwa. The investigation in this regard is still ongoing,” the ED said.

Thampi was arrested in this case in January 2020 and the ED in a recent press statement alleged that he was a ‘close associate’ of Robert Vadra.

Thampi is at present out on bail .

The ED also stated in the charge sheet that Thampi, in a statement recorded before the agency in January 2020, said he purchased a Land Cruiser car from Robert Vadra ‘more than 10 years ago’ for which he made payments to the businessman through cheques from his NRE accounts in India.

It also said Thampi has not submitted any documents or details to explain a bank transaction of Rs 10 lakh with Robert Vadra in 2007.

“Thus, from the above, it is quite evident that Robert Vadra has a close association with C C Thampi,” it said.

In June 2019, Thampi told the ED that he knew Robert Vadra for more than 10 years and the businessman was “initially introduced” to him by Madhavan, PA to Sonia Gandhi.

He told the agency that he met Robert Vadra “number of times in the lounge of Hotel Taj Man Singh and some other restaurants in Delhi and also in Dubai.”

Thampi, according to the ED, also told the Enforcement Directorate that Robert Vadra “stayed at the property 12 Bryanston Square, London three-four times.”

The federal probe agency, in a press statement released earlier this week, had said Robert Vadra “renovated and stayed” at this London house which is a “proceeds of crime” in the money laundering case being investigated against Bhandari.

The ED filed a criminal case against Bhandari and others in February 2017 taking cognisance of an Income Tax Department charge sheet filed against him under the anti-black money law of 2015. (PTI)

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