Businessman Robert Vadra, the brother-in-law of Congress chief Rahul Gandhi, has denied owning a series of properties in London during his six-hour questioning by the Enforcement Directorate on Wednesday. The central probe agency grilled him in a money laundering case at their office. A court has given Robert Vadra immunity from arrest till February 16 but also asked that he join the investigation. In a big signal to the BJP, which has been targeting her over the allegations against her husband, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra dropped him off at the agency's South Delhi office. "I stand by my husband," she said, adding that she wanted to send a "clear message" by her appearance at the ED office.
Four days after a Delhi court ordered Robert Vadra to join the Enforcement Directorate (ED) investigation, he was questioned for over six hours on Wednesday.
Vadra, the brother-in-law of Congress President Rahul Gandhi, arrived at the ED’s office located in central Delhi’s Jamnagar House at 3.45 pm and left at 9.35 p.m.
He was accompanied by his wife and Congress general secretary for Uttar Pradesh East, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra to the agency office earlier in the day.
However, after dropping Vadra at the ED office, Priyanka left the premises.
It was the first time that Vadra was questioned by any investigative agencies.
He was questioned by a team of seven ED officials of the rank of Deputy Director and Assistant Directors under the sections of Prevention of Money Laundering Act.
According to a financial probe agency official, Vadra was asked questions relating to transactions, purchase and possession of certain immovable assets in London.
The case relates to the ownership of 1.9 million pounds of undisclosed assets abroad, allegedly belonging to Vadra.
The ED also lodged a money laundering case against Vadra’s close aide Manoj Arora after his role surfaced during a probe by the Income Tax Department into another case under the new Black Money Act and tax law against absconding arms dealer Sanjay Bhandari.
The London property was allegedly bought by Bhandari and sold in 2010 for the same amount despite incurring additional expenses on its renovation.
On December 7, as part of the investigation, the ED conducted searches at a number of premises in Delhi-NCR and Bengaluru.
The ED counsel told the court earlier that the London property was part of the kickbacks received in a petroleum deal. The money was transferred by Santech International, FZC, a UAE-based company controlled by Bhandari.
There were a few more properties that needed to be probed, the counsel said.
The official said that Arora, an employee of Vadra’s Skylight Hospitality LLP, is a key suspect in the case as he is aware of the overseas investments and purchases made by his employer.
He also said that the agency also confronted Vadra with the statement given by Arora.
The questioning came in the wake of an order by a Delhi Court on February 2 directing Vadra to appear before the ED for questioning while hearing the anticipatory bail plea filed by him.
The court had on Saturday also granted interim bail to Vadra till February 16.
Earlier in the day, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who accompanied her husband to the ED office made a strong political statement.
“I stand by my family,” she later told reporters at the AICC headquarters where Congress workers shouted slogans hailing her. “Priyanka you fight on, we are with you!”
Sending out a strong message to her political opponents, newly appointed Congress General Secretary, Priyanka Gandhi, backed her husband Robert Vadra and accompanied him to the office of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) here which quizzed the controversial businessman in a money laundering case.
Making her first public appearance after being appointed as the Congress’ General Secretary in-charge of eastern Uttar Pradesh, she accompanied her husband in an SUV to the agency office in Jamnagar House at the mouth of the India Gate circle.
Both hugged and planted kisses on each other’s cheek before Vadra came out of the car and headed for the ED office where he was grilled for several hours in connection with a case relating to the ownership of 1.9 million pounds of undisclosed assets abroad, allegedly belonging to him.
From there, she drove straight to the 10-Janpath residence of her mother Sonia Gandhi and then walked over to the neighbouring AICC headquarters where she spent some time inside her office and met party workers.
“He is my husband, he is my family…I support my family,” Priyanka replied as mediapersons piled questions asking if the ED action was a political vendetta by the Centre’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
“I stand by my family,” she added while leaving the office.
Vadra’s aide Jagdish Sharma alleged that the BJP government was carrying out a political vendetta against the son-in-law of the Gandhi family.
Besides the Congress accusing the Modi government of “political vendetta”, Vadra had earlier alleged “unceasing political witch-hunt” over the probe by the central agency.
The BJP has been attacking Vadra, Priyanka, the fifth generation member of the Nehru-Gandhi family, and the Congress over the cases allegedly involving him. The BJP is expected to step up attack on the “dynasty” politics of the Congress as campaign picks up in the coming Lok Sabha elections.
Priyanka is also slated to attend a meeting of party’s general secretaries chaired by Congress President and brother Rahul Gandhi on Thursday at the Congress headquarters where the roadmap and strategies for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections are expected to be discussed.
After the Thursday’s meeting, Rahul Gandhi will hold talks with state chiefs and other office-bearers on Saturday where plans and approach for the Lok Sabha polls for respective states will be chalked out.
These will then be finalised at the at the Congress Working Committee meeting slated later in February.
Meanwhile, the BJP continued to attack the Congress, with party spokesperson Sambit Patra calling the Gandhi family “bail parivar” whose foundation was “built on corruption”. (IANS)