Court extends interim protection from arrest to Robert Vadra's aide Manoj Arora

The relief to Arora was granted as the probe agency informed the court that Vadra has also been granted interim bail till February 16 after he filed an anticipatory bail application.

Published: 06th February 2019 07:42 PM  |   Last Updated: 06th February 2019 07:42 PM   |  A+A-

Businessman and son-in-law of UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Robert Vadra (File photo)

Businessman and son-in-law of UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Robert Vadra (File photo)

By PTI

NEW DELHI: A Delhi court Wednesday extended till February 16 the interim protection from arrest granted to Manoj Arora in a money laundering case in which his employer Robert Vadra, son-in-law of UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, joined the probe before the Enforcement Directorate.

The relief to Arora was granted as the probe agency informed the court that Vadra has also been granted interim bail till February 16 after he filed an anticipatory bail application and sought time to respond.

The case is linked to allegations of money laundering in the purchase of a London-based property 12, Bryanston Square, worth 1.9 million pounds.

The property is allegedly owned by Vadra, brother-in-law of Congress president Rahul Gandhi.

ED had opposed Vadra's anticipatory bail and claimed that he had also got kickbacks in a petroleum deal in 2009.

Vadra had moved the anticipatory bail plea from London where he had gone for the treatment of his mother.

In his anticipatory bail plea, Vadra said he was being subjected to "unwarranted, unjustified and malicious criminal prosecution which on the face of it is completely politically motivated and is being carried out for reasons other than those prescribed under law".

He was granted protection from arrest on February 2 with a direction to appear before the ED and cooperate in the investigation.

On Wednesday, he appeared before the Enforcement Directorate.

His wife and Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi strongly came out in support of her husband, whom she dropped off at the ED's office.

The court had passed the directions after his advocate had submitted that Vadra was abroad for his mother's treatment and would come to India on February 6.

The court will next hear the matter on February 16, when Vadra's interim bail is scheduled to expire.

During the hearing, the agency sought time to file a reply to an anticipatory bail application by Arora, whose interim protection from arrested was expiring on Wednesday.

ED's special public prosecutor Nitesh Rana requested the court to adjourned the matter for February 16 since Vadra's matter is listed for that day.

The court had granted relief to Vadra on furnishing a personal bond of Rs 1 lakh and a surety of like amount while asking him not to leave the country without its prior permission.

The agency said it has received information about various new properties in London which belongs to Vadra including two houses of five and four million each, six other flats and more properties.

"We just want him to come and inform about his properties," Rana had said.

The plea said Vadra's office was raided by ED on December 7, 2018, and therefore, he seriously apprehends that his liberty may be curtailed by the investigating agency.

"The petitioner (Vadra) is being subjected to a farce criminal prosecution which actually is beset with nothing else except political vendetta and most, unfortunately, the respondent (ED) being the law enforcement agency is a party to the unethical and illegal exercise.

"It is stated that the petitioner's (Vadra's) firm through its authorised representative Manoj Arora has already joined investigation with the ED conducting investigation into the affairs of the firm in Rajasthan with their offices at Jaipur on many occasions and has supplied all the relevant documents to the satisfaction of the officials of the ED," the plea said.

Arora, an employee of Vadra's Skylight Hospitality LLP, was a key person in the case and he was aware of the latter's overseas undeclared assets and was instrumental in arranging funds, ED had alleged.

Vadra alleged that he is being "hounded and harassed" to subserve political ends.

"It is stated the petitioner has the highest regard for the due process of law and is always willing to cooperate with the investigation in the highly charged political atmosphere and political contours of the present investigation, he seriously apprehends arrest by the investigating authorities and in such circumstances, the petitioner by means of the present petition is also praying that while he is willing to join investigation with the ED authorities," his plea read.

The agency had told the court that it lodged the money laundering case against Arora after his role came up during the probe of another case by the Income Tax Department under the newly enacted Black Money Act and tax law against absconding arms dealer Sanjay Bhandari.

It had alleged that the London-based property was bought by Bhandari for GBP 1.9 million and sold in 2010 for the same amount despite incurring additional expenses of approximately GBP 65,900 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 told the court.

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