NEW DELHI: The ED Tuesday told a Delhi court that Manoj Arora was "the front man" for Robert Vadra and his firm and the issuance of an open-ended arrest warrant against him was required in a money laundering case connected to an overseas property allegedly owned by Vadra.
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) informed the court that a London-based property at 12, Bryanston Square, worth 1.9 million pounds, was owned by Vadra and various aspects of the purchase are already being investigated by the Income Tax Department for alleged illegalities.
ED's special public prosecutor Nitesh Rana said Arora was looking after all the affairs related to the purchase of the property and issuance of the non-bailable warrant (NBW) against him was required to ensure that the probe proceeds further.
Vadra is the brother-in-law of Congress president Rahul Gandhi.
Special Judge Arvind Kumar put up the matter for further hearing on Wednesday.
The court will hear on January 10 an application by Arora, seeking anticipatory bail in the case, alleging that ED was forcing him to "falsely implicate" his employer Vadra in the case.
During the arguments on Tuesday, the ED said, "Three summons were issued against him earlier. He is a key person but evading summons. He is in possession of various docs of Vadra. More than one e-mail regarding that property (London-based) between Arora and one person in UK was exchanged. Arora was constantly suggesting how and what to renovate in the property before it was officially bought by Vadra."
It further stated that "Arora was the front man for Vadra and his firm Skylight Hospitality LLP. There are digital evidences but they are not being processed since he is not appearing. A lot of documents were seized and he will be the person to inform who and what they concern to. A number of other cases are filed against him as well. Unless he joins the probe, investigation can't move further".
The ED has said that it has lodged a 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 said the 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," ED's application, moved through advocate A R Aditya, said.
ED claimed that NBW against Arora was needed for getting a Red Corner Notice issued against him through Interpol since there were apprehensions that he might have fled the country.
Arora was a key person in the case and he was aware of overseas undeclared assets of Vadra and was instrumental in arranging funds, it said.
In his application seeking anticipatory bail, Arora claimed that his wife had appeared before the agency for interrogation in the case and through her, ED officials threatened him to implicate Vadra.
"It is stated that some officials of ED visited the wife of petitioner and threatened her that unless her husband, i.e. the petitioner, deposes to the desires of the ED officials specially to the extent of falsely implicating Robert Vadra, the petitioner would be taken to task and would be treated with their degree methods and the officials would ensure that his future and his family's future is doomed in perpetuity," the accused alleged in the application.
He further alleged that his wife was told by the ED officials that if the accused agrees to agency's demands, "then they would also ensure tender of pardon to the petitioner, otherwise the case of the petitioner is already been botched up to an extent that he will never come out of custody".
The ED officials had also sought "confessional statement against his employers, including Vadra, to the suitability of the investigation", he alleged.
He claimed that he has already joined investigation with the respondents conducting the probe into the affairs of Skylight Hospitality LLP as its authorised representative in Rajasthan with their offices at Jaipur on many occasions and has supplied all the relevant documents to the ED.
"Yet the petitioner is being virtually hounded and harassed" by the agency.
ED had on January 5 urged the court to issue open-ended NBW against Arora, saying he failed to appear for questioning despite repeated summonses in the case.
An "open-ended NBW" does not carry a time limit for execution unlike other non-bailable warrants.
The ED submitted that Arora has been absconding since the search of his premises by the agency.
"It is apprehended that the accused might have crossed the boundaries of the country. Hence, Red Notice through Interpol is required to be issued for which open-ended NBW is necessary," the agency argued.