ED expands probe into foreign assets 'related' to Vadra
The Enforcement Directorate is set to widen its probe involving Robert Vadra, brother-in-law of Congress President Rahul Gandhi, in its ongoing probe into the money laundering case involving overseas' assets.
"The agency has asked its UK counterpart to share details of ownership and financial transactions related to over half-a-dozen properties in the UK," a senior ED official told IANS.
"We think the six properties were bought using the laundered money, and belonged to Vadra," said the official.
Sources said the agency has asked UK authorities to help it get full details of current and past ownership of these properties which could establish their the sale and purchase over a period of time.
Vadra, who has been questioned by the financial probe agency for over 14 times in the last four months, is being probed under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act. Vadra is being investigated in a money laundering case involving foreign assets worth UK pound 1.9 million.
The ED official said the agency has also sought help from financial intelligence units of some other countries to identify the flow of funds used to buy these assets. The officials said as soon as the ED has confirmed list of UK properties, it will request the authorities there to provisionally attach them.
Highly placed sources in the agency said that besides the "property number 12", Ellerton House, Bryanston Square, London, the five other properties are also on the agency's radar. Those include 26 Wellington Road St John's Wood London, 25 Saratoga Road Clapton London, 42 Upper Brook Street London, Property on Edgware Road London and Flat Number 6, Grosvenor Hill Road, Bourdon Street, London.
An ED official revealed that the agency has detected some alleged undisclosed transactions being made from other foreign countries for the purchase of these properties by people linked to Vadra. The ED has also found the link in the form of NRI businessman C.C. Thampi, through whom the financial probe agency suspects kickbacks were routed in a petroleum deal in 2009. Thampi was questioned by the agency in April this year.
According to the agency officials, the discrepancies in Vadra's and Thampi's statements can spell more trouble for Vadra. The agency had moved the court last month demanding for custodial interrogation of Vadra and also requested the court to cancel his anticipatory bail.
Vadra during his questioning on February 6 earlier this year told the ED that he met Thampi on board an Emirates' flight. While Thampi in his statement to the ED has stated that he met Vadra through Madhavan, personal assistant of UPA chairperson and his mother-in-law Sonia Gandhi.
The official also pointed out another contradiction in Vadra's statement made to it. He was asked whether he had any knowledge about 12 Bryanston Square (BSQ) property in London. "Vadra during questioning on February 7 replied that he has never stayed there. While Thampi in his statement on April 6 said that Vadra did stay at 12 BSQ in London," the official said.
Earlier this week, before appearing for questioning, Vadra said that he remained focused and calm despite being questioned for over 80 hours.
In a Facebook post before arriving at the ED's Jamnagar office in Delhi, Vadra wrote: "As I make my way for the 13th time, post almost 80 hours with the ED, answering any number of questions, amidst sensation and unnecessary drama around, I stay focused and calm."
The court earlier this week allowed Vadra to travel to the Netherlands and US for six weeks for medical treatment. IANS