The Delhi High Court on May 27 sought Robert Vadra’s response on the ED plea to cancel his anticipatory bail in a money laundering case on the ground that it required his custody as he was not cooperating in the investigation.
Justice Chander Shekhar issued notice to Vadra on the Enforcement Directorate’s petition challenging trial court’s April 1 order which granted him anticipatory bail.
The high court also sought response of Manoj Arora, an employee of Vadra’s Skylight Hospitality LLP and a co-accused in the case, on the agency’s plea seeking cancellation of the anticipatory bail.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the ED, said they required his custody as Vadra was not cooperating in the investigation and the trial court had not discussed the gravity of the offence in its order.
Vadra, brother-in-law of Congress president Rahul Gandhi, is facing allegations of money laundering in the purchase of a London-based property at 12, Bryanston Square worth 1.9 million pounds (over Rs 17 crore).
The case is being probed under the provisions of Prevention of Money Laundering Act.
When the court asked if the ED wanted Vadra’s custody, Mehta said, “Yes, that is my case. We want his custody”, and added that Vadra was not cooperating in the investigation.
The high court further sought to know what was the flaw in the trial court’s order.
The solicitor general said everything was shown to the special judge but it has not discussed the gravity of the offence in the trial court order.
“It was categorically recorded but no finding was given in the order. See the modus operandi. We need his custody. At this stage, we have to show a prima facie case. It is not that anybody was picked up, we have material against him,” Mehta contended.
The plea, filed through ED prosecutor DP Singh, has challenged the trial court’s order saying the special judge had failed to consider the settled position of law that bail should not be “granted in a routine manner”.
ED has contended that if Vadra is granted the blanket protection of bail, there is a likelihood that he may tamper with evidence and influence the witnesses in the case and that the trial court had failed to appreciate that he was a highly-influential person.
It has claimed that Vadra was “non-cooperative” and in spite of being given several opportunities to come clean on his alleged role in the case, he remained evasive.
It said the protection given to him would be detrimental to its probe on certain crucial aspects, including ascertaining the exact source of the allegedly tainted money and the end use of the funds involved in the case.
Besides, the ED has alleged that Arora was aware of the undeclared overseas assets and was instrumental in arranging funds.
The separate pleas of Vadra and Arora seeking quashing of the case are also pending before the high court. They have denied the allegations.
ED further said that Vadra has “maliciously” claimed to be a victim of political vendetta and made all possible attempts to sensationalise the case.
It said the other important aspects of the probe are related to unearthing the entire source of credits for purchasing the properties and ascertaining the details of all similar transactions in the accounts of the entities concerned.
The agency has said it will also require to confront Vadra with voluminous incriminating material for bringing the investigation to a logical conclusion.
Vadra has recently approached a trial court seeking permission to travel abroad and his plea is pending.
The trial court, while granting anticipatory bail to Vadra, had directed him not to leave the country without prior permission and also to join the probe as and when called by the investigating officer.
According to the ED, it had lodged the money-laundering case against Arora after his role came up during the probe of another case filed by the Income Tax department under the newly-enacted Black Money Act and tax law against absconding arms dealer Sanjay Bhandari.
It has alleged that the London-based property was bought by Bhandari for 1.9 million pounds and sold in 2010 for the same amount, despite incurring an additional expense of approximately 65,900 pounds on its renovation.
ED said it has received information about various new properties in London which allegedly belong to Vadra, including two houses worth 4-5 million pounds each and six flats.