Yes Bank co-founder Rana Kapoor on Sunday told the Enforcement Directorate that he was forced to buy an MF Husain painting from Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, PTI reported.
The Enforcement Directorate had arrested Kapoor on March 8, 2020, for allegedly conspiring with Dewan Housing Finance Limited promoters and siphoning off funds worth Rs 5,050 crore from Yes Bank through “suspicious transactions”.
Kapoor, who is currently in judicial custody, told the central agency that the sale proceeds from the painting were used by the Gandhi family to pay for Congress chief Sonia Gandhi’s medical treatement in New York, according to PTI. Milind Deora, former Congress MP and son of Murli Deora, had told him this information confidentially, Kapoor claimed.
The statements are part of a supplementary chargesheet filed by the Enforcement Directorate in a special court in Mumbai.
Murli Deora, a former Union minister who died in 2014, had allegedly told Kapoor that he could not build a relationship with the Gandhi family if he refused to buy the painting. Deora had said that his refusal would so also ruin his chances of being awarded a Padma Bhushan, the third-highest civilian honour in India, according to the chargesheet.
Kapoor also alleged in his statement to the Enforcement Directorate that Deora had also warned him at a dinner that failure to purchase the painting could have “adverse repercussions” for him and Yes Bank.
“He [Milind Deora] had even made me several calls and messages also in this regard from multiple mobile numbers,” Kapoor told the central agency, according to the chargesheet, PTI reported. “In fact, I was very much reluctant to go for this deal and I had tried also to avoid this deal several times by ignoring his calls/messages and personal meetings.”
Kapoor informed the Enforcement Directorate that formalities for closing the deal to buy the painting were held at Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s office.
“Milind Deora had actively coordinated this final closing meeting,” he added. “I wish to state that for this deal, I had made a payment of Rs 2 crore through a cheque of my personal account in HSBC Bank.”
The Yes Bank co-founder claimed that Ahmed Patel, who died in 2020 and was a close aide of Sonia Gandhi, had praised him for “performing a good deed for the family”.
“Under this threat and against my family’s wishes, since we are not high-value art collectors, I could not afford to invite any form of enmity with the two powerful families involved and thus I had to hesitatingly proceed given the looming and overhanging threat involved,” Kapoor said, according to the chargesheet.
Congress, BJP reactions
The Congress has dismissed the allegations.
“I don’t want to use a strong word, it is absolutely disgusting that a 2010 transaction, a person who is behind bars for years, whose 20-30 bail applications have been rejected, who is called a crook and a fraudster, makes allegations about dead people and the government is jumping with joy only because it suits their political angle,” party spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi said at a press conference.
Singhvi also sought to know the objective behind making such allegations at a time when neither Murli Deora nor Ahmed Patel are alive to respond.
“They [Bharatiya Janata Party government] are trying to create a fear psychosis to scare people to do political vendetta, they should know better than that,” the Rajya Sabha MP added. “At least spare the dead.”
However, the Bharatiya Janata Party called the Congress and the Gandhi family “extortionists” and accused them of selling the Padma Bhushan.
“The Congress hand is with corruption...while common people were suffering, the Congress and the Gandhi family were enjoying,” BJP spokesperson Gaurav Bhatia said, PTI reported.
BJP’s Information Technology Cell head Amit Malviya said that Gandhis were selling the Padma Bhushan to “buy loyalty or silence”.