ED moves Delhi court to confiscate 2 UK properties in PMLA case against Sanjay Bhandari

ED seeks confiscation of UK properties linked to Sanjay Bhandari and Robert Vadra
 Robert Vadra and  Sanjay Bhandari
Robert Vadra and Sanjay Bhandari

New Delhi | The Enforcement Directorate has moved a court here to confiscate two properties in the United Kingdom, including one allegedly "renovated and stayed in" by Robert Vadra, as part of its money laundering probe against alleged defence dealer Sanjay Bhandari.

The agency has called the two immovable assets -- located at 12, Bryanston Square and 6, Grosvernor Hill court at 15 Bourdon Street in London -- as the "proceeds of crime" and undisclosed foreign properties of Bhandari.

The 54-year-old Vadra, the son-in-law of former Congress president Sonia Gandhi, has denied in the past that he owned any London property directly or indirectly.

The ED, while filing the second prosecution complaint (chargesheet) in this case last month, sought the special court's permission to "confiscate" the two assets under the criminal sections of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

The prosecution complaint was taken on record on December 22 and the matter will be next heard on January 29.

The 61-year-old Bhandari, who is stated to have fled to London in 2016 soon after the Income Tax department raided him in Delhi, is currently contesting an order of the UK government to extradite him to India.

The extradition request was made by the ED and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) which are probing money laundering and corruption charges against the alleged middleman.

The I-T department too is probing him for holding alleged undisclosed assets abroad.

The ED has claimed in a fresh money laundering chargesheet, accessed by PTI, that Bhandari "acquired" the Bryanston Square house in 2009 and got it renovated "as per the directions of Robert Vadra and the funds for renovation were provided by Robert Vadra." Sumit Chadha, an accused in this case and a relative of Bhandari, is the "key holder" of this (Bryanston Square) asset at present, according to the ED.

Another accused in this case, UAE based NRI C C Thampi, has recorded his statement before the ED saying Robert Vadra "stayed at this property 3-4 times", the agency has said in the chargesheet.

Vadra has in the past termed these charges and cases political witch hunt against him. He has said he was being "hounded and harassed" to subserve political ends.

The federal probe agency had said that the Bryanston Square 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.

"Sanjay Bhandari held various undisclosed foreign income and assets including properties at no 12 Bryanston Square, London and 6 Grosvenor Hill Court, London. These assets are proceeds of crime as per the provisions of the PMLA and C C Thampi and Sumit Chadha have been found to be involved in the concealment and use of these proceeds of crime," the ED has said in a press statement.

"Mr Robert Vadra not only renovated the property at 12 Bryanston Square, London through Sumit Chadha but also stayed in the same. Mr Robert Vadra as well as C C Thampi purchased a huge chunk of land at Faridabad (near Delhi) and had financial transactions with each other," the agency said.

In the case of the Bourdon Street house, the ED said the asset was initially held by Bhandari but after the Income-Tax department raided him in 2016, the ownership was transferred by him to Chadha, the husband of his niece Puja Chadha.

Bhandari, who was a resident in India for tax purposes in 2015, is accused of concealing overseas assets, using backdated documents, benefiting from the assets not declared to the Indian tax authorities and then falsely informing the authorities that he did not possess any overseas assets.

He, however, has denied these allegations

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