New Delhi: The searches by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) against three persons linked to Robert Vadra continued on Saturday with official sources saying the action is being undertaken by the agency on the basis of two criminal FIRs filed by it in the past.
They said the central probe agency is questioning at least four persons on the second day of the raids.
The sources also said the agency is recording the statements of these people, who have not been identified till now, under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).
The agency issued a statement on Saturday but it did not identify the case or the accused.
“Directorate of Enforcement is conducting PMLA investigations in certain cases relating to ownership of undisclosed assets abroad.
“As part of these investigations, the Directorate has carried out search operations on December 7 under PMLA at a number of premises in Delhi-NCR and Bengaluru by the issue of search warrants under section 17 of PMLA,” it said.
It added that these searches “have been carried out as per the prescribed procedure and documents and digital evidence seized during these searches are being examined.”
“Further investigations are in progress,” it said.
However, sources added that the raids are being conducted as part of ED’s old money laundering FIRs, called ECIRs in the agency’s parlance, in the Bikaner land scam case and one against absconding arms dealer Sanjay Bhandari, they said.
ECIR stands for Enforcement Case Information Report.
While Vadra-linked firm Skylight Hospitality and its officials have been grilled by the ED in the Bikaner land scam case, the agency has twice issued summons to Vadra, the brother-in-law of Congress chief Rahul Gandhi, to appear in this case relate to alleged fraud in purchase and sale of defence land in Rajasthan’s border town of Bikaner.
Controversial arms dealer Bhandari was booked by the ED in 2016 based on an Income Tax Department and Delhi Police complaint of his alleged indulgence in dubious defence deals.
He is reported to have left the country soon after.
Bhandari’s case first came to light after the I-T department conducted searches against him in April 2016 and recovered certain “sensitive” official defence documents from his premises.
As part of these raids, certain emails are also said to have been recovered that talk about the renovation of a costly apartment in London in 2010 which was allegedly owned by Vadra.
Vadra’s legal firm has denied that he owned the London property directly or indirectly. It has also denied Vadra has any business ties with an arms consultant or his aides.
The tax department had shared a “seizure memo record” with the defence ministry to apprise it about the contents of these “sensitive” documents.
ED sources had said on Friday that “the searches were being carried out at the premises of two employees of firms linked to Vadra and another person”.
These people are suspected to have received commissions out of a defence deal and they subsequently invested these funds to acquire illegal assets abroad, they had said.
Vadra’s lawyer Suman Khaitan had said ED officers “are inside his client’s premises since 8/9 AM”.
Khaitan had alleged that the ED teams entered the premises of associates of his client without showing “search warrants”.
He had claimed that the premises were locked from inside and questioned the government’s motive behind it.
Khaitan went on to claim that probably evidence was being fabricated.
The Congress reacted sharply to the ED action and said an “unnerved” Modi government was unleashing “vendetta” against Vadra to divert the narrative.