Priyanka Gandhi Vadra named in ED's charge-sheet in alleged money laundering case

Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Varda. Photo: PTI

New Delhi: Purchase of three plots of land in Haryana in 2005-06 by Congress leader Sonia Gandhi's son-in-law Robert Vadra from a real estate agent is being probed along with a land deal made by his wife Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, the ED claimed in a recently filed money laundering case charge-sheet.

The federal agency filed the charge-sheet (prosecution complaint ) in November before a court against NRI businessman C C Thampi, who is allegedly linked to Robert Vadra, and Sumit Chadha, a relative of alleged middleman Sanjay Bhandari.

Though Robert Vadra and Priyanka Gandhi, a Congress general secretary, have not been named as accused in the charge-sheet, this is the first time that they have been named together in the complaint.

A special Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) court in Delhi took cognisance of this charge-sheet on December 22 and listed the matter for next hearing on January 29, 2024.

Bhandari fled to the UK in 2016 and the British government approved his extradition to India in January acting on a legal request made by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). The two federal agencies are probing charges of money laundering and tax evasion against the alleged middleman for holding alleged undisclosed assets abroad.

The ED stated in the charge-sheet that it came across the land purchase and sale transactions of the Vadras after it registered a Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) case against 67-year-old Thampi in 2015. A "long and thick relationship" existed between Robert Vadra and Thampi, the agency said.

Robert Vadra has been questioned by the agency in this case in the past and he has denied any wrongdoing.

Thampi, the ED said, had purchased about 486 acres of land between 2005-2008 in Amirpur village in Faridabad in Haryana through H L Pahwa, a Delhi-NCR-based real estate agent.

"It is imperative to mention that Robert Vadra also purchased three pieces of land measuring 334 Kanal (40.08 acres) in Amirpur from H L Pahwa from 2005-2006 and sold the same land to H L Pahwa in December 2010," it said in the charge-sheet

"Further, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra wife of Robert Vadra also purchased agricultural land measuring 40 kanal (05 acres) in village Amirpur, district Faridabad, Haryana, from H L Pahwa in April 2006 and sold the same land to H L Pahwa in February 2010," the ED stated.

It said that "Pahwa was receiving cash out of the books for acquisition of land". "It was also noticed that Robert Vadra did not pay the entire consideration to Pahwa. The investigation in this regard is still ongoing," the ED said.

Thampi was arrested in this case in January 2020 and the ED in a recent press statement alleged that he was a "close associate" of Robert Vadra. Thampi is at present out on bail.

The agency said Robert Vadra, the brother-in-law of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, "renovated and stayed" at a London property which is a "proceeds of crime" in the money laundering case being investigated it against Bhandari.

The ED filed a criminal case against Bhandari and others in February 2017 taking cognisance of an Income Tax Department charge-sheet filed against him under the anti-black money law of 2015.

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