ED grills Vadra & Priyanka says she will stand by him

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New Delhi: Robert Vadra was Wednesday questioned by Enforcement Directorate (ED) in connection with a money-laundering probe into alleged possession of illegal foreign assets, days after his wife Priyanka Gandhi was formally inducted into the Congress party.

In a move seen as sending a political message ahead of Lok Sabha polls, Priyanka, sister of Congress president Rahul Gandhi, accompanied her husband in a white Toyota Land Cruiser along with SPG personnel in tow and dropped him outside the agency’s office in Jamnagar House in central Delhi.

Shortly after, Priyanka assumed charge as AICC general secretary in-charge of Uttar Pradesh East.

“I stand by my family,” said Priyanka in response to a query about her husband being questioned by the ED.

It is for the first time that Robert Vadra, son-in-law of Sonia Gandhi, is appearing before any probe agency in connection with alleged criminal charges of dubious financial dealings After jostling with a posse of assembled media persons, Robert Vadra entered the ED office at around 3:47 pm, minutes after a team of his lawyers reached the premises.

He then signed the attendance register before being taken in for questioning.

Vadra has denied allegations of possessing illegal foreign assets and termed them a political witch hunt against him.

Vadra has alleged he was being “hounded and harassed” to subserve political ends.

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The BJP seized on the questioning of Vadra to attack the Congress and allege he got kickbacks from a petroleum and defence deals took place during the UPA regime.

BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra alleged at a news conference that Vadra bought 8 to 9 properties in London from the money he got as kickbacks from a petroleum and a defence deal which took place in 2008-09 when the UPA was in power.

Patra did not provide any evidence to back up his claim.

Vadra was directed by a Delhi court to cooperate with the investigation being carried out by the ED after he knocked at its door seeking anticipatory bail in the money laundering case.

The court had asked him to appear before the ED on Wednesday on his return from London.

Official sources said Vadra will be put through questions on transactions, purchase and possession of certain immovable assets in London and his statement will be recorded under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

The case relates to allegations of money laundering in the purchase of a London-based property located at 12, Bryanston Square worth 1.9 million GBP (British pounds), which is allegedly owned by Vadra.

The agency had told the court that it has received information about various new properties in London which belongs to Vadra.

A local Congress leader Jagdish Sharma, questioned by the ED, in this case, few weeks ago, was present outside the agency’s office after Vadra went in.

Talking to newsmen, Sharma alleged that Vadra was being “framed” in the case.

The ED had also carried out raids in the case in December last year and grilled his aide Manoj Arora, an employee of a firm linked to Vadra, Skylight Hospitality LLP.

The agency had told the court that it filed the money laundering case against Arora after his role cropped up during the probe of another case by the Income Tax Department under the 2015 anti-blackmoney legislation against absconding arms dealer Sanjay Bhandari.

It had alleged that the London-based property was bought by Bhandari for 1.9 million GBP and sold in 2010 for the same amount despite incurring additional expenses of approximately 65,900 GBP on its renovation.

“This gives credence to the fact that Bhandari was not the actual owner of the property but it was beneficially owned by Vadra who was incurring expenditure on the renovation of this property,” the ED had told the court.

Arora was a key person in the case and he was aware of the latter’s overseas undeclared assets and was instrumental in arranging funds, ED had alleged.

Vadra has also been directed by the Rajasthan High Court to appear before the ED again on February 12 in connection with another money laundering case being probed by the agency.

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