The High Court in Rajasthan today rejected a plea by Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s husband Robert Vadra and his mother Maureen Vadra that they not be arrested for questioning in a money laundering case related to a land deal. But it did give them relief for two weeks, during which they can go to a two-judge bench of the court.
The main allegation is that the Vadras’ firm called Skylight Hospitality – through a middleman named Mahesh Nagar — illegally purchased 275 bighas of government land in Bikaner district in 2012 that was sold further for a steel plant at a massive profit.
The Vadras contended in the Jodhpur High Court that there was no need to arrest them if the central probe agency, Enforcement Directorate (ED), needed to question them at all.
The ED challenged their petition against custodial interrogation.
In the case formally registered by the ED in 2016, the Vadra mother-son have earlier been questioned in 2019, and continue to deny any illegality.
In the order today, Justice PS Bhati said a halt on arrest will remain in force for a fortnight to allow an appeal in a higher court, meaning a two-judge bench of the High Court.
Back in 2017, the ED arrested two alleged associates of Robert Vadra — Jai Prakash Bhargav and Ashok Kumar — while investigating land deals in Rajasthan, particularly in Bikaner’s Kolayat area.
Ashok Kumar was allegedly working in tandem with Mahesh Nagar, who had the Power of Attorney to buy land in Bikaner on behalf of Mr Vadra’s firm Skylight Hospitality.
The land in question was not meant to be bought or sold in this manner, it is alleged, as it had been allotted to people whose land was acquired elsewhere by the government for the army’s field firing range. But, with connivance of revenue officials, this land was sold allegedly by fictitious people to many others, including to Skylight.
The government in 2015 cancelled the deal and filed 18 cases.
But Robert Vadra was not named in those FIRs over the land deals as such, but he is named in being probed by the ED for alleged money laundering related to those deals.
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