Court grants protection from arrest to Vadra's aide, directs him to appear before ED 

New Delhi, Delhi, IndiaUpdated: Jan 11, 2019, 08:54 PM IST
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File photo of Robert Vadra. Photograph:(Zee News Network)

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Arora was a key person in the case and he was aware of overseas undeclared assets of Vadra and was instrumental in arranging funds, it said.

A Delhi court Friday granted interim protection from arrest in a money laundering case to Manoj Arora, close aide of Robert Vadra, who alleged that the case was foisted on him by the NDA government as a result of "political vendetta."

Arora told the court that since the 2019 general elections were approaching, the NDA government was "unnerved" by the recent assembly election results in which Congress emerged victorious. Vadra is son-in-law of UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi. 

The Enforcement Directorate (ED), which has expressed apprehension that Arora might have fled the country, said that if he was in the country, he should come forward and join the investigation.

ED said Arora has not answered the notice served to him and his places have been raided in his absence.

The allegations by Arora's counsel were made before Special Judge Arvind Kumar who provided relief to him and directed him to appear before the ED on Saturday at 3pm.

Senior advocate and Congress leader K T S Tulsi, appearing for Arora, was responding to ED's allegations that the accused might have fled from the country.

He submitted that Arora, an employee of Vadra's Skylight Hospitality LLP, was willing to appear before the agency if he was protected from any coercive action and "torture" as such actions may lead him to make a "false confession".

"There is nothing that I (Arora) have acquired anything... They already have entire record in the case. Further I am willing to give all information I have."

"I am willing to appear before ED but I do not want to be be tortured or coerced to make a false confession. They do not to proceed against anybody else because they want to create and falsify evidence. It cannot be said that I am concealing myself. I am appearing before court through my lawyer," the counsel for Arora said.

However, the ED refuted the allegations, by asking that "should no authority investigate any political bigwig because that will be called a political vendetta?"

"For one month they were aware about the notice, raids. But since an application on NBW was filed by ED, he rushed to the court. We are afraid that you (Arora) have gone out of the country. If you are here, come forward," ED's counsel, D P Singh, said, referring to the application moved by the probe agency which sought an open-ended non-bailable warrant (NBW).

An open-ended NBW does not carry a time limit for its execution.

According to ED's special public prosecutor Nitesh Rana, the case relates to allegations of money laundering in purchase of a London-based property -- 12, Bryanston Square -- worth 1.9 million pound, which was allegedly owned by Vadra, the brother-in-law of Congress president Rahul Gandhi.

The ED had told the court that it has lodged a money laundering case against Arora after his role came up during the probe of another case by the Income Tax Department under the newly-enacted Black Money Act and tax law against absconding arms dealer Sanjay Bhandari.

It said the London-based property was bought by Bhandari for GBP 1.9 million and sold in 2010 for the same amount despite incurring additional expenses of approximately GBP 65,900 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," ED said through advocate A R Aditya.

It claimed that NBW against Arora was needed for getting a Red Corner Notice issued against him through Interpol since there were apprehensions that he might have fled the country.

Arora was a key person in the case and he was aware of overseas undeclared assets of Vadra and was instrumental in arranging funds, it said.

In his application seeking anticipatory bail, Arora has claimed that his wife had appeared before the agency for interrogation in the case and through her, ED officials threatened him to implicate Vadra.

"Some ED officials visited petitioner's wife and threatened her that unless Arora deposes to the desires of the ED officials, specially to the extent of falsely implicating Robert Vadra, the petitioner would be taken to task and would be treated with their degree methods and the officials would ensure that his future and his family's future is doomed in perpetuity," the accused alleged in the application.

He further alleged that his wife was told by the ED officials that if the accused agrees to agency's demands, "then they would also ensure tender of pardon to the petitioner, otherwise the case of the petitioner is already been botched up to an extent that he will never come out of custody".

The ED officials had also sought "confessional statement against his employers, including Vadra, to the suitability of the investigation", he alleged.

ED had on January 5 urged the court to issue open-ended NBW against Arora, saying he failed to appear for questioning despite repeated summonses in the case.

The ED submitted that Arora has been absconding since the search of his premises by the agency.

"It is apprehended that the accused might have crossed the boundaries of the country," the agency argued.