Trouble mounts for Vadra in Bikaner land deal
Tuesday - February 12, 2019 9:00 pm , Category : BUSINESS
Jaipur, Feb 12 (IANS) The Enforcement Directorate (ED) is said to have made a tight case of money laundering against Robert Vadra, brother-in-law of Congress President Rahul Gandhi who is being probed in a land deal in Bikaner in Rajasthan.According to the ED, which is investigating a web of controversial land transactions in Bikaner allegedly involving Vadra's company Skylight Hospitality LLP, is believed to have collected documents pertaining to the purchase and sale of land in the border town. ED officials claim that Vadra had started creating a land bank near power sub-stations in Bikaner from June 2009, almost a year before the then Congress-led UPA government announced the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (NSM) Policy under which huge subsidies (nearly 40 percent) were offered for setting up grid-tied solar power plants.After the Centre's announcement, Vadra's land value located near power sub-stations skyrocketed. And the land bought by the state government had practically no takers because most of it was not close enough for easy grid connections. An ED official said Vadra's Skylight Hospitality bought this plot in Kolayat in March 2010. And two years later, in May 2012, it sold off 29.36 hectares of land in Kolayat for nearly Rs 2 crore to a French joint venture without adding any value to it.He said the ED has zeroed on Mahesh Nagar, an authorised representative of Skylight Hospitality owned by Vadra and his 75-year-old mother Maureen Vadra. Nagar is the person who links Vadra's company with the person named Ashok Kumar who was named in the chargesheet filed by the Rajasthan Police in the case.In December 2017, the ED had arrested Ashok Kumar, a close associate of Nagar, and another person, Jaiprakash Bagarwa. The ED had searched the premises of both Kumar and Nagar in April 2017.According to ED officials, 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 has been probing the alleged scam in the purchase of land in Kolayat area in the border town of Bikaner in Rajasthan which was meant for those displaced due to the Army's field firing range. According to the ED officials, Skylight Hospitality had purchased 69.55 hectares of land for Rs 72 lakh and then sold it to Allegeny Finlease for Rs 5.15 crore, earning a profit of Rs 4.43 crore.The agency registered a criminal case under the Money Laundering Act in 2015, taking cognizance of the case filed by the Rajasthan Police after forgery allegations. The agency had earlier issued notices to Skylight Hospitality but had not mentioned Vadra's name or any company linked to him in its FIR.According to the ED, during investigation it found that Allegeny Finlease as a company was "not involved" in any "real business activities" and many of its shareholders were found to be dummy or non-existent.The government had cancelled the mutation (transfer of land) of 374.44 hectares of land after allotments were found to have been allegedly made in the names of "illegal private persons".Revenue officials had said in the complaint that government land in 34 villages of Bikaner that was meant to be used for expanding the Army's firing range was "grabbed" by the land mafia by preparing "forged and fabricated documents" in connivance with government officials.ED suspects that a huge amount of money was laundered in this case by people buying land at cheaper rates through forged documents.The ED is also probing the loan which the Bhushan Power and Steel Ltd gave to a company that bought land owned by Skylight Hospitality at seven times higher than the acquisition cost.