Officials of the Enforcement Directorate on Friday searched three properties owned by industrialist Robert Vadra abd his aides, ANI reported. Vadra is the brother-in-law of Congress President Rahul Gandhi. Suman Jyoti Khaitan, Vadra’s lawyer, said that the investigating agency’s personnel have locked the premises from the inside to possibly plant evidence.
Khaitan claimed that the raids were being conducted without a first information report being registered. He said the action taken by the ED, the Central Bureau of Investigation and Income Tax Department against Vadra are part of the government’s attempt to malign his client’s reputation.
Unidentified agency officials said the Enforcement Directorate is investigating “commissions received by some suspects in defence deals” and illegal assets abroad, PTI reported. This is the first time claims linking Vadra’s associates to defence deals have surfaced.
The agency raided several locations in Delhi-National Capital Region and Bengaluru. “The searches were carried out at the premises of two employees of firms linked to Vadra and another person,” an unidentified official said. “These people are suspected to have received commissions out of a defence deal and they subsequently invested these funds to procure illegal assets abroad.”
The officials, however, did not share information about the identity of those being raided.
Khaitan accused the Enforcement Directorate of attempting to fabricate or plant evidence. “They are not allowing anyone to go inside,” the lawyer told reporters. “Is this Nazism? Is this a jail? It has been four and a half years [since they started investigating the matter] and they found nothing.”
The lawyers said the personnel did not show their “search warrants”.
On Wednesday, Vadra had said the Enforcement Directorate’s decision to summon him for questioning in the Bikaner land deal case was a political witch hunt. Vadra was summoned by the agency on November 30 after he reportedly sent a legal representative instead of appearing himself on November 20.
In a Facebook post published on Wednesday, Vadra had claimed it was a “politically motivated, malicious and baseless prosecution” and that truth will prevail. “The political witch hunt carries on unceasingly with government departments clearly operating on an agenda to besmirch my dignity and reputation” he said.
Meanwhile, Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala alleged that the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government was responsible for the raids. “Sure shot defeat in five states unnerves Modi government to again use the old tools – unleash revenge and vendetta against Mr Robert Vadra to divert the narrative,” Surjewala tweeted. “Such cowardice and intimidation will not subjugate either the Congress Party or the will of people.”
The Enforcement Directorate is investigating the case based on a first information report filed by the Rajasthan Police in 2015. The investigating agency has registered a criminal case under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, alleging that Vadra-owned Sky Light Hospitality bought and sold the land in Bikaner at an extremely high price through several illegal transactions.
Vadra had earlier accused the Bharatiya Janata Party government of leaking “false allegations” against him ahead of the Assembly elections in Rajasthan. He said the claims were “entirely false” and that the BJP was trying to divert attention away from its maladministration in the state through these leaks.