Delhi court grants anticipatory bail to Robert Vadra in money laundering case

The court said Vadra will not leave the country without prior permission.  It also imposed certain conditions on him and said he shall not tamper with any evidence, influence any witness in the case.

Robert Vadra, facing investigation in a money laundering case, was directed Monday not to leave the country without prior permission by a Delhi court which granted him anticipatory bail while imposing several other conditions. Special Judge Arvind Kumar also directed him not to tamper with the evidence or influence witnesses and join the investigation as and when called by the investigating officer.

The court asked Vadra, brother-in-law of Congress President Rahul Gandhi, to furnish a personal bond of Rs 5 lakh and a surety of the like amount. Vadra is facing allegations of money laundering in purchase of a London-based property at 12, Bryanston Square worth 1.9 million pounds.

In its order granting the relief, the court noted the submissions made by senior advocate A M Singhvi, appearing for Vadra, that the accused has joined the probe as and when called by the investigating officer. It also noted that there was no allegation that the accused at any point of time had tampered with evidence or influenced any witness in the present case. The case of ED is mainly based on documentary evidence, it said.

The court also observed that Vadra’s office premises were searched on December 7 and 8, 2019 and voluminous documents, nearly 20,000 pages, were seized. It further noted that he had filed application for anticipatory bail on February 1 and on February 6 he was directed to join the investigation.

“The accused has joined the probe as and when called by the investigating officer. Vadra had joined the investigation on nine occasions from February 6 to March 8 and has been interrogated for about 58 hours and answered the questions put to him,” it said. “Further, it is also noted that accused is having permanent residence in Delhi and has deep roots in society, his family is based in India and his properties are also situated in India,” the court added.

The judge said, “Considering the overall facts and circumstances, I consider it to be a fit case for grant of anticipatory bail. Thus, in the event of arrest, the applicant shall be released on bail on furnishing personal bond in sum of Rs 5 lakh with one surety of the like amount to the satisfaction of the investigating officer.” ED’s special public prosecutors D P Singh and Nitesh Rana had opposed Vadra’s application, saying he was “needed to be dealt with custodial interrogation and that there was a risk of tampering with the investigation”.

Rana had told the court that there was fresh evidence in the case, including the e-mail trail in which the purchase and renovation of the London-based property was discussed. “The anticipatory bail needs to be dismissed. Robert Vadra needs to be dealt with custodial interrogation,” ED had told the court.

ED’s lawyer A R Aditya had accused Vadra of politicising the matter. The court also granted anticipatory bail to Manoj Arora, an employee of Vadra’s Skylight Hospitality LLP and a co-accused in the case.  It noted that it was clear from record that the present case was registered on the basis of Black Money Act (Undisclosed Foreign Income and Assets) and Imposition of Tax Act regarding which a complaint had already been filed against Sanjay Bhandari (arms-dealer) and the proceeds of crime allegedly relate to the said offence.

Therefore, the present complaint cannot be said to be extension of any case registered by the ED relating to properties of Vadra in Rajasthan, the court said. In his application, Vadra has alleged that he was being subjected to “unwarranted, unjustified and malicious criminal prosecution which on the face of it is completely politically motivated and is being carried out for reasons other than those prescribed under law”.

The ED had alleged that Arora was a key person in the case and he was aware of the Vadra’s overseas undeclared assets and was instrumental in arranging funds. According to ED, it lodged the money laundering case against Arora after his role came up during the probe of another case by the Income Tax Department under the newly enacted Black Money Act and tax law against absconding arms dealer Sanjay Bhandari. It alleged that the London-based property was bought by Bhandari for GBP 1.9 million and sold in 2010 for the same amount despite incurring additional expenses of approximately GBP 65,900 on its renovation.

“This gives credence to the fact that Bhandari was not the actual owner of the property but it was beneficially owned by Vadra who was incurring expenditure on the renovation of this property,” the ED had told the court. ED said it has received information about various new properties in London which allegedly belong to Vadra, including two houses of five and four million pounds each and six other flats.

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