In the parliament, Arun Jaitley had hinted that while the bidding process for the MMRCA was going on during the Congress regime, a parallel backroom deal was going on with Eurofighter for probable bribes. Rafale and Eurofighter Typhoon had entered the final round of bidding, among the initial 6 contenders, but eventually, Rafale was selected in 2012 on technical parameters.
Not only had rumours surfaced that Rahul Gandhi had met Eurofighter officials in Germany, but once the Sanjay Bhandari link surfaced, the unanswered questions only took on mammoth proportions. Sanjay Bhandari is a close friend of Robert Vadra and an arms dealer. From 2012 to 2015, Sanjay Bhandari was lobbying to become the offset partner in the Rafale deal and Dassault had refused to indulge him. In fact, a file related to the purchase of 126 Rafale jets had gone missing from the defence ministry and it was later found on the road. It is alleged that Bhandari had stolen the file. It is alleged that Bhandari used to photocopy crucial files and passed on to defence contractors that he had links with.
So far, the link had only been established between Robert Vadra and Sanjay Bhandari. However, now, OpIndia has accessed information that links Rahul Gandhi to Sanjay Bhandari, through some dubious land deals, thickening the cloud of questions.
These papers relate to the ED search conducted on one H L Pahwa on 3rd May 2017 and 4th May 2017. The land dealings are between Rahul Gandhi and H L Pahwa who was funded by one C C Thampi, who has close financial links to Sanjay Bhandari.
Rahul Gandhi’s land deal with HL Pahwa
According to the files seized by the Enforcement Directorate from HL Pahwa, Rahul Gandhi had purchased 6.5 acres of land located at Hassanpur, Palwal vide registration deed 4780 dated 3rd March 2008 from HL Pahwa for a measly Rs. 26,47,000. The land was purchased by making a cheque payment of Rs. 24,00,000 dated 12th January 2008 and Rs. 2,47,000 dated 17th March 2008.
But, File C page 57 of the seized ED files reveals that the stamp duty on this transaction was paid in cash and was not withdrawn by Pahwa. It thus becomes obvious that it was the buyer, in this case, Rahul Gandhi who paid the stamp duty.
Another revelation in the file (Page 60 of File C) is that Pahwa wanted to sell the land at Rs. 33,22,003 but agreed to sell only at Rs. 26,47,000 to Rahul Gandhi.
Other dubious dealings with HL Pahwa
In 2009 Haryana elections, Congress fielded a first-time candidate, realtor Lalit Nagar, in Faridabad’s newly-created constituency of Tigaon. A Times of India report from 2012 reads:
“Lalit Nagar’s brother, Mahesh Nagar, purchased land on behalf of Robert Vadra, not just in Haryana but also in Rajasthan.
A sale deed dated 3 March 2008, shows nine acres of land in Hasanpur village in Haryana’s Palwal district was sold by Gurgaon resident H L Pahwa to Robert Vadra for Rs 36.9 lakh. At the bottom of the deed, Pahwa has signed as the seller. But the buyer’s signature is not Vadra’s, it is Mahesh Nagar’s. The buyer is named as ‘Robert Vadra through Mahesh Nagar’, which shows Vadra has vested authority/power of attorney in Mahesh Nagar.
Similarly, a sale deed from Rajasthan’s Bikaner district shows 4.63 acres of land in Basti village in Ganganagar tehsil was sold for Rs 8.5 lakh in April 2009, by 42-year-old Sarita Devi Bothra to Real Earth Estate Private Limited, a company based in New Delhi. The company’s director is Robert Vadra. The purchase is done on his behalf by Mahesh Nagar”.
Priyanka Gandhi Vadra too had purchased land from HL Pahwa. We had earlier reported how Priyanka Gandhi Vadra had purchased land and sold it back for an inflated price, 4 years later to the same person. That person was also HL Pahwa. On 28th April 2006, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra had purchased land by paying Rs. 15,00,000 in 2 cheques from HL Pahwa, and then, on 17th February 2010, sold it back to HL Pahwa for Rs. 84,15,006 via several cheques.
What is to be noted here is that HL Pahwa paid Priyanka Gandhi Vadra in five instalments between 22nd May 2009 and 11th September 2009 “due to non-availability of funds”. One wonders why a businessman who sells a land, then purchases the same land at almost 5 times the price right when he doesn’t have the funds to spare.
It is pertinent to note that HL Pahwa had often purchased these lands in cash and instances have also been noticed where he purchased the land even with negative cash balance.
One wonders then, how did HL Pahwa purchase these lands when he had a negative cash balance? The ED files reveal that HL Pahwa had received Rs. 54,00,00,000 (Rs 54 crores) from CC Thampi.
Who is CC Thampi?
Recently, Robert Vadra was grilled for over 5 hours for his alleged links to CC Thampi. The Enforcement Directorate suspects kickbacks for a petroleum deal in 2009 were routed through the Sharjah-based company, allegedly controlled by a UAE-based NRI businessman, CC Thampi. Vadra was also questioned about owning benami property in London along with CC Thampi and Sanjay Bhandari. Thampi has a company in UAE called Sky Light and in India, Skylight Hospitality Private Limited is allegedly linked to Vadra and is under the ED scanner for suspect land deals in Bikaner, Rajasthan.
CC Thampi is being probed by Indian authorities over violations of the Foreign Exchange Management Act worth several hundreds of crores of rupees. ED had served him a show-cause notice last year for violation of laws in the acquisition of agricultural and other lands in and around Delhi-NCR in deals amounting to over Rs 288 crore. CC Thampi, Robert Vadra and Sanjay Bhandari are ‘close friends’.
Link Between CC Thampi and Sanjay Bhandari
1. The company, Syntac, where Sanjay Bhandari has majority shareholding is under the scanner for one Petroleum Contract and one Defence deal. While the Petroleum contract was granted by the UPA-I government in 2009, the Defence deal was sanctioned in the year 2005.
2. There are 4 properties which are also under the scanner, purchased in London with ill-gotten wealth emanating from the ‘kickbacks’ received by the UK company from the two deals.
3. The amount of kickback is said to be $49,99,969 and an amount of GBP 19,22,262.44 was transferred to the UK on 10/12/2009, right after the petroleum deal was okayed, to the bank account of Syntac. This was the money that was used to purchase the house in London through shares of Vertex.
4. In fact, investigation agencies have found that soon after the house was purchased, Vadra started corresponding with a relative of Bhandari for the renovation of the house and Bhandari financed the renovation, amounting to GBP 60,000.
5. After the renovation, Sanjay Bhandari sold the property which was held by him through Vertex to SkyLight FZE owned by CC Thampi. The sale consideration received by Vertex was transferred back to Syntac on 30/06/2010 and allegedly, the same was syphoned off by making payment to Future Key Trading Company, Choice Point Trading and Jain Trading.
6. Skylight Investment does not have any business activity and its bank account was opened on 31/3/2009. However, the company had disclosed Villa E-74 and Flat 12 Ellerton House, London, as an investment in December 2010.
7. Even though Skylight Investment had no business activity, huge deposits were made in its account before the purchase of Villa E 74 in Dubai and that of Ellerton House, London.
The facts that emerge are these:
1. Rahul Gandhi purchased land from HL Pahwa at allegedly, a reduced price.
2. The land was also purchased from HL Pahwa by Robert Vadra and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra. In several cases, the land was bought back by HL Pahwa at an inflated price even though his cash balance was negative.
3. To make good on the purchase, HL Pahwa took money from CC Thampi
4. CC Thampi and Sanjay Bhandari are close friends. As demonstrated, they had several financial transactions amongst themselves.
5. Sanjay Bhandari is an arms dealer and close friend of Robert Vadra. He had received kickbacks in Defence deal and in Petroleum deal.
6. It is through this kickback that Sanjay Bhandari purchased benami properties from Robert Vadra, even paid for the renovation.
7. The property was them sold to CC Thampi, and the proceeds syphoned off.
8. The ED is currently probing proximity of Robert Vadra with Thampi.
9. All of these deals happened during the Congress government.
10. Sanjay Bhandari is an armed dealer. From 2012 to 2015, Sanjay Bhandari was lobbying to become the offset partner in the Rafale deal and Dassault had refused to indulge him
11. File related to the purchase of 126 Rafale jets had gone missing from the defence ministry and it was later found on the road. It is alleged that Bhandari had stolen the file. It is alleged that Bhandari used to photocopy crucial files and passed on to defence contractors that he had links with.
12. Arun Jaitley had alleged that while Rafale was being finalised during the Congress government, there were backroom talks about the Eurofighter.
13. There are rumours that Rahul Gandhi had met Eurofighter representatives in Germany.
From these points, it is safe to draw the conclusion that Rahul Gandhi, just like Robert Vadra, is inextricably linked to Sanjay Bhandari, an arms dealer who is not only close to the Gandhi family but was also rebuked by Dassault in the Rafale deal. Sanjay Bhandari is also said to have received kickbacks in defence and petroleum deals during the Congress regime.
Allegations that Rahul Gandhi is attacking the Rafale deal today because there were backroom discussions with Eurofighter gather even more steam when a direct link between arms dealer Sanjay Bhandari and Rahul Gandhi coming to the fore. Recently, it was also revealed that Christian Michel, the middleman in the AgustaWestland chopper scam was lobbying for Eurofighter and against Rafale. With the links deepening and the questions regarding why Rahul Gandhi is attacking the Rafale deal growing louder, it would only behove the Congress party to explain Rahul Gandhi’s association with arms dealer Sanjay Bhandari.
Editor, OpIndia.com since October 2017