New Delhi: The Enforcement Directorate (ED) believes that Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s brother-in-law Robert Vadra was the beneficiary of kickbacks received by arms dealer Sanjay Bhandari for facilitating a deal between Samsung and PSU Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) during UPA-1 regime in 2009  —  according to the documentary evidence exclusively accessed by MyNation

The money was then round-tripped and used for buying 12 Ellorton House, Bryanston Square, in London, among the many overseas properties that Priyanka Vadra’s husband allegedly owns. 

Bryanston Square property is just one of the many overseas properties for which the ED is already probing Vadra and Bhandari. Earlier, the income tax department had accessed several pieces of incriminating digital evidence in the form of email exchanges between Vadra, his then executive assistant Manoj Arora and Sumit Chadha, a close relative of Bhandari, from a raid on properties related to Bhandari in India. It emerged that Vadra was beneficially controlling the property and was incurring expenditure for its renovation. 

On the basis of documentary evidence, MyNation explains the modus operandi of the round-tripping.

1. Sanjay Bhandari, through a US-based company M/s Santech International located in the free zone establishment (FZE) in United Arab Emirates (UAE) which he owns through majority shareholding, helped in 2009 M/s Samsung Engineering Corporation Ltd in getting a contract from ONGC. 

In return, Bhandari’s firm received a kickback of $ 49,99,969 in its bank account on June 13, 2009. 

2. Bhandari’s firm transferred British pounds (GBP) 19,22,262.44 (1.9 million) on December 10, 2009, from its account to the UK and used to purchase two shares of M/s Vertex Holding BVI through an agreement struck on December 11, 2009. Vertex was holding a house in London, namely 12 Ellorton House, Bryanston Square.

Effectively, Bhandari acquired the property from Vertex by way of purchasing its two shares from the money received as kickbacks from the Samsung-ONGC petroleum deal. 

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3.  After the property was acquired by Bhandari enters Robert Vadra. Emails between Vadra and Chadha were earlier exclusively accessed by MyNation, too. The emails betray links between Bhandari and Vadra, which the latter has so far denied before the ED investigators. These emails lend credence to ED’s allegation that Vadra, and not Bhandari, was the actual owner of the property.

Chadha wrote to Vadra asking if there was “any update on when some funds will be sent” as Chadha has “not heard back from anyone & would appreciate” if Vadra could let him know so that he could plan his “cash flow”.

“As you are aware, I am not doing this project for any commercial gain, only to complete a task taken on as a favour & my ability to complete without unnecessary stress will be greatly assisted if I can be given some clear assurances & timelines on which I will be reimbursed,” Chadha wrote to Vadra.

Further, Chadha wrote in the mail: “I have commenced completion of all the remaining structural works at the property in relation to the floors, bathrooms & heating system. All materials have been procured & installation has begun of the wooden floors...”

Vadra had replied: “Was not aware that nothing had reached you. Will look into it in the morning and let Manoj sort it out. Will be in London soon too. You take care. Cheers.” The Manoj here is Manoj Arora.

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4. After the completion of the renovation, Bhandari sold the property to M/s Sky Lite Investment FZE, Dubai. Interestingly, here enters in the scene a company which sounds much like the Sky Light Hospitality which is owned by Vadra. In case of the new company, it is owned by CC Thampi. Thampi is a close friend of Robert Vadra and the two have known each other for over a decade. The property is sold on June 25, 2010 for United Arab Emirats Dirham (AED) 96,99,980 or GBP 1.9 million. The proceeds went to the account to Bhandari-owned M/s Santech International’s account on June 30, 2010. 

5. The money was then, according to ED documents, “siphoned out in case or by making payments to M/s Future Key Trading Company, M/s Choice Point Trading and M/s Jain Trading”.

6. Interestingly, the name of Sky Lite Investment FZE is changed to M/s May Fair Investment FZE on March 30, 2013, when UPA-2 was in power in India. The change is backdated and with effect from September 8, 2011. 

7. In yet another interesting development, CC Thampi transfers 100% shareholding in Sky Lite Investment FZE, now May Fair Investment FZE, to the son of his stepsister Vedakkethala Cheru Geever by way of just one share worth AED 1,50,000.

8. The property — 12 Ellorton House, Bryanston Square in London is now held by Sky Lite Investment FZE. 

9. Another facet of the company, which is owned by a close friend of Robert Vadra, sounds similar to one held by Vadra in India and used to buy this London property for the renovation of which Vadra is allegedly paying, is that its bank account was opened only in 2009 just before the petroleum deal. 

10. According to ED papers, Sky Lite Investment FZE (M/s May Fair Investment FZE) does not have any business activity. Its account having been opened with just AED 1,50,000 and without any business activity, the company disclosed, as per ED, investments of way more money year after year. This suggests that this is a shell company used to launder money. 

11. Another suggestion that this company is just a shell corporation is the nature of deposits that ED found. In its account (number 0085495727), huge deposits were made just before the purchase of two properties, including the Bryanston Square and Villa E-74, Jumeirah in Dubai.