Robert Vadra questioned by ED for over 5 hours; wife Priyanka says 'I support my family'

File photo of Robert Vadra. Photograph:( Zee News Network )

PTI New Delhi, Delhi, India Feb 06, 2019, 08.41 PM (IST)

Robert Vadra, the brother-in-law of Congress chief Rahul Gandhi, was Wednesday questioned by Enforcement Directorate (ED) in Delhi for over five hours in its money laundering probe into alleged possession of illegal foreign assets, days after he was directed by a city court to appear before the central probe agency.

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Vadra's wife Priyanka Gandhi accompanied him in a white Toyota Land Cruiser and dropped him outside the ED's office in Jamnagar House, in a move seen as sending a political message to Congress' opponents ahead of Lok Sabha polls. 

Shortly after, Priyanka took charge as AICC general secretary in-charge of Uttar Pradesh East, a fortnight after her formal induction into the Congress party on January 23.

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"He is my husband, he is my family...I support my family," Priyanka said in a show of support to Vadra, who returned from London earlier in the day.

Priyanka was asked by newsmen at the All India Congress Committee(AICC) headquarters whether she was sending any message by dropping her husband at the ED office for questioning.

Asked if it was a political vendetta, she said everyone knows why this is being done.

On the day of Priyanka's appointment, Vadra had sent an emotional message to her.

"Congratulations P... Always by your side in every phase of your life. Give it your best,? Vadra said in a Facebook post.

It is for the first time that 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, 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.

Ahead of the questioning by a team of 3 ED officials, official sources said Vadra will be put through a dozen 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). 

Vadra was directed by a Delhi court on February 2 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 directed him to appear before the ED on Wednesday on his return from London.

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.

Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi claimed that the charges against Vadra are "fickle, superficial, non-existent, non-substantive".

The BJP had full four and a half years to investigate but could not find anything, he claimed at a news conference.

The attempt is to mislead, confuse and to create and ambience before election, but people see through this, he said.

"The ED, Income-Tax Department, the CBI, and 10 other agencies could not do a thing against him, for so many years. It shows that this is nothing but an 'electoral jumla'". 

The ED case against Vadra 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 him.

The agency had told the court that it has received information about various new properties in London which allegedly 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 claimed before the court.

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

Story highlights

Priyanka dropped Robert off at the ED office in Delhi's Jamnagar House. The move was seen as sending a political message to the Congress' opponents ahead of the Lok Sabha polls.