New Delhi: The ED has arrested Keralite NRI businessman CC Thampi in connection with its money laundering probe against Robert Vadra, the son-in-law of Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, and absconding arms dealer Sanjay Bhandari in a case related to acquisition of alleged illegal assets abroad, officials said on Monday.
Thampi is stated to be "controlling" a Dubai-based company Sky Light. In 2009, Bhandari's rm Santech FZE purchased a London asset from a private company, which was acquired by Sky Light.
Vadra is alleged to have acquired this London-based asset, and few purported emails between him and Bhandari, regarding renovation of this at, are part of the evidence in the case.
The agency claims Thampi met Vadra through an aide of his mother-in-law and Congress president Sonia Gandhi, while the latter reportedly told the Enforcement Directorate that he only met him on board an Emirates ight some years ago.
Thampi, during his earlier grilling session with the ED, claimed that Vadra had stayed at the Bryanston Square property in London. Vadra, in his statement made to the agency, denied Thampi's claim.
The agency arrested Thampi on Friday under the provision of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) after he was summoned in the case, they said.
It is understood that his arrest and subsequent custodial grilling will unravel the "missing links" in the case where the ED has charged Vadra of acquiring illegal assets abroad in coordination with Bhandari.
Thampi has been charged by the agency in the past in an alleged illegal hawala dealings and land purchase case in the country in 2017, in alleged contravention of the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA).
It had also issued a FEMA show-cause notice to Thampi for alleged violation of foreign exchange laws to the tune of over Rs 1,000 crore in the purchase of vast tracts of land in Kerala.
The rms that are being investigated by the ED, as part of the two FEMA show-cause notices issued against him, include Holiday City Centre Private Limited, Holiday Properties Private Limited and Holiday Bekal Resorts Private Limited.
Agency sources had said the NRI businessman is also under the scanner for his reported dealings with some politicians and bureaucrats.
The ED case against Vadra relates to allegations of money laundering in the purchase of a London-based property at 12, Bryanston Square worth 1.9 million GBP (British pounds), which is allegedly owned by him.
The agency earlier told a court that it had received information about various new properties in London which belong to Vadra. These include two houses -- one worth 5 million GBP and the other valued at 4 million GBP, six other ats and more properties.
Vadra had consistently denied these charges and has said he will cooperate in the probe.
He had said he was being "hounded and harassed" to subserve political ends.
Thampi is scheduled to be presented in Delhi's Rouse Avenue Court on Tuesday at the end of his Enforcement Directorate remand on January 21.
The rags-to-riches story of Thampi
Starting off by doing odd jobs after moving to the Middle East in the 1980s, arrested NRI businessman CC Thampi's story is a typical rags-to-riches one.
Hailing from Thrissur district in Kerala, Thampi's life changed for the better after he landed up in the Middle East in the eighties.
Starting off by doing odd jobs, he then set up his own business. After almost a quarter of a century operating from his business base in the UAE's Ajman, he now owns a string of businesses across various sectors and in multiple locations both in and outside the Gulf country ranging from educational institutions, resorts, distilleries and real estate. Though he began his career in liquor trading, he later diversied into the restaurant business. He also operated bars in several high-end hotels.
Though many in his home town Thrissur are yet to gure out his meteoric rise in business, it is pertinent to mention here that his upward mobility gained momentum after he reportedly became close to Congress veteran K Karunakaran, whose relations with Thrissur are too well known.
After gaining the condence of Karunakaran, who for close to two decades from the eighties onwards was the byword in Congress politics in Kerala and nationally too for a brief while, Thampi had no reason to look back.
He was a special invitee of the Kerala government in the 2018 Loka Kerala Sabha, an event hosted by the government of Kerala to bring Keralites living around the globe under one platform.
CBI probe in 2009
The Central Bureau of Investigation(CBI) rst investigated Thampi in 2009, alleging issues in the
establishment of Thejas Engineering College in Thrissur. Another college under Thampi's chairmanship was also brought under CBI scanner.
It is alleged that despite having limited facilities and poorly constructed buildings, the college permit was acquired through a fake afdavit. All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) South West Region Director was arrested during the probe for accepting a huge bribe from Thampi.
However, Thampi was let off at the time due to lack of evidence. The case was opened again in 2017.
(With PTI and IANS inputs)