ED Summons Robert Vadra in Bikaner Land Scam PMLA Case

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has summoned Robert Vadra, brother-in-law of Congress President Rahul Gandhi, in connection with its money laundering probe in a land scam case in Rajasthan's border city of Bikaner, officials said on Friday, 30 November.

They added that Vadra was asked to appear before the investigating officer (IO) of the case next week and this was the second summons issued to him for recording his statement under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

The officials said that as Vadra did not appear before the investigating officer when the first summons were issued earlier in November and the second summons were issued to him.

The central probe agency had registered a criminal case in connection with the deal in 2015, taking cognisance of a clutch of FIRs and chargesheets filed by the Rajasthan police after the local tehsildar of Bikaner complained about alleged forgery in the allotment of land in the area, considered sensitive due to its proximity to the Indo-Pak border.

The ED, it is understood, wants to grill Vadra about the operations of a firm – Ms Skylight Hospitality Private Limited, allegedly linked to him, which had purchased land in the area. It also wants to confront Vadra with the statements of those said to be linked to him.

The agency was also probing the role of a big steel firm that gave loans to a company that bought the land from firms linked to Vadra for a very inflated price, official sources said.

The agency, in the past, had also raided the premises of people linked to Vadra, including Mahesh Nagar and a few others.

In December last year, the ED had arrested Ashok Kumar, a close associate of Nagar, and another person, Jaiprakash Bagarwa. Nagar is said to be associated with Ms Skylight Hospitality Private Limited, the firm with alleged links to Vadra.

The ED had searched the premises of both Kumar and Nagar in April last year.

Nagar was the "authorised representative" in four cases of land purchase in Bikaner.

Kumar, the agency alleged, had purchased land in the same area, using the "power of attorney" of others.

The ED probe in the case is related to the purchase of a land measuring 275 bigha allegedly by the company in Bikaner's Kolayat area a few years ago.

The agency has also attached assets worth Rs 1.18 crore of government officials and others in connection with the case under the provisions of the PMLA.

The ED, in the past, had also issued notices to the firm and obtained certain documents from it.

The agency, however, has not mentioned Vadra's name in its FIR filed under the PMLA. The FIR names some Rajasthan government officials and the “land mafia.”

‘Sheer Political Vendetta’: Vadra Denies Allegations

Vadra had earlier denied any wrongdoing in connection with the land deal and the Congress had claimed that the case was a result of "sheer political vendetta.”

The Rajasthan government had, in January 2015, cancelled the mutations (transfer of land) of 374.44 hectares of land, after the land department claimed to have found that the allotments were made in the names of "illegal private persons.”

The tehsildar had said in his complaint that the government land in 34 villages of Bikaner, to be used for expanding the Army’s firing range in the area, was “grabbed” by the land mafia with the help of “forged and fabricated documents,” in connivance with government officials.

The ED suspects that a huge amount of money was laundered in the case as people bought land for cheap through forged documents.

The state government had, while cancelling the mutations, said those were not issued by the Commissioner, Colonisation, Bikaner. PTI

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