A year on, arms dealer considered close to Vadra yet to be caught

A year on, arms dealer considered close to Vadra yet to be caught

By Kundan Jha | New Delhi | 6 August, 2017
CBI, RCN, ED, Robert Vadra, Ashok Shankar, OSA, Money Laundering Act

Security agencies, including the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Delhi Police, have failed to get a Red Corner Notice (RCN), an international arrest warrant, issued through the Interpol against controversial arms dealer Sanjay Bhandari, much less apprehend him despite trying for over a year. In a later development, sources say that the Enforcement Directorate (ED) has sent a final investigation report to the Ministry of Finance about Bhandari’s alleged link with Robert Vadra, businessman and son-in-law of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, regarding “benami property” allegedly owned by Vadra in London. Sources said that the ED is likely to pursue this line of investigation against Vadra. However, it must be mentioned here that Vadra’s legal firm has already denied that he owned any “benami” property in London. It has also denied that Vadra had any business ties with arms dealer Bhandari or Bhandari’s aides.

Bhandari has gone underground since November last year, a month after Delhi Police registered an FIR against him and his close associate, Ashok Shankar, under Sections 3 and 5 of the Official Secrets Act (OSA). Police action against Bhandari was initiated in October 2016 after several confidential documents related to the Ministry of Defence were reportedly recovered from his Defence Colony house in New Delhi in April 2016 in a raid conducted by the Income Tax (I-T) Department. Not just the Delhi Police, the I-T Department and the ED also booked Bhandari under the Black Money (Undisclosed Foreign Income and Assets) and Imposition of Tax Act, 2015 and Prevention of Money Laundering Act, respectively.

On the basis of the reported evidence provided by the I-T Department and the ED’s own investigation, on 1 June 2017, the ED attached Bhandari’s assets worth Rs 21 crore in connection with a money laundering case against him. It was the first seizure under the new Undisclosed Foreign Income and Assets Act, 2015. Sources close to Bhandari, however, denied all charges of wrongdoing.

As for Bhandari’s alleged link with Vadra—which has been denied by Vadra’s legal firm—ED sources say that they have sent their final investigation report to the Ministry of Finance. “The investigation report has been already sent to the Ministry of Finance and the ED is waiting for the green signal from the top authorities for initiating action against Vadra. Disclosures from Bhandari and his five other aides have helped the ED reach this conclusion,” a source in ED claimed.

Last year, the I-T Department had raided Bhandari’s premises and I-T sleuths recovered certain emails that reportedly spoke of the renovation of a costly apartment in London in 2010.

ED officials told this newspaper that they were probing the alleged disclosures made by Bhandari and that the emails they had recovered from him would help them in their investigation.

Hopeful of Bhandari’s extradition, the Delhi Police requested for an RCN against the alleged middleman in January after receiving inputs that he had moved to UK via Nepal and was living in London’s Mayfair area. Senior police officers, however, confirmed to The Sunday Guardian that Interpol is yet to issue an RCN in Bhandari’s name.

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