In a fresh trouble for Congress and Robert Vadra, the CBI has initiated a probe into Rs 2,900-crore Pilatus aircraft deal inked by the previous UPA government in 2012. The investigative agency has registered a preliminary enquiry (PE). Apart from this investigators have found out alleged link between fugitive defence dealer Sanjay Bhandari and Congress President Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law. The link related to a property deal in London, according to Indian Express report.
Income Tax Department had raided Bhandari in April 2016. During the deal, I-T sleuths unearthed documents which allegedly show a payment of around 7,50,000 Swiss Francs from Pilatus to Bhandari’s Offset India Solution Pvt Ltd. CBI was probing what kind of services were rendered by Bhandari’s firm to Pilatus, according to IE report.
Bhandari, who had left the country last year, is currently believed to be in London. Delhi police had issued a look-out notice against Bhandari. It had booked him under the stringent Official Secrets Act (OSA).
Regarding Vadra’s alleged link, he had replied to London-based Sumit Chadda, a relative of Bhandari, that “he would look into the issue”, and that his “secretary” Manoj Arora will be “in touch”, according to the I-T report. Thereafter, Arora kept in touch with Chadda using an email ID “Exim Real Estate”, the report alleged. Vadra’s lawyers, however, had rejected the claims saying that he does not own directly or indirectly, house No 12, Ellerton House, Bryanston Square, London. They also said that Vadra and his assistant have not entered into any transaction of a financial nature with Mr Sanjay Bhandari and are not even aware that Mr Sanjay Bhandari is involved in any defense transaction.
The deal was signed to procure 75 basic trainer aircraft (BTA) from the Swiss firm. It has been learned that the aircraft was preferred over American-made Beechcraft T-6C Texan II and the South Korean KT-1 aircraft.
Former defence minister and present Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar had informed Lok Sabha that the deal was under the scanner. “There were a lot of discussions over Pilatus in 2012, when I came (to office), around 62 planes were already flying. I thought, if I raise it now, the air force (pilot) shortage, which has come to 164, would have gone up to 1,000,” Parrikar had said.
Notably, a PE is registered to verify and examine facts of a case, and is concluded within three months.