Politics, BJP, Congress, Narendra Modi, Rahul Gandhi, C C Thampi, Priyanka Gandhi, Amit Shah, Robert Vadra

NEW DELHI: A Delhi court Friday extended by four days the custodial interrogation of NRI businessman C C Thampi, arrested by the ED in connection with its money laundering probe against Robert Vadra in a case related to acquisition of alleged illegal assets abroad.

Special CBI Judge Arvind Kumar extended the accused’s custody with the Enforcement Directorate in the case involving Vadra, son-in-law of Congress chief Sonia Gandhi. ED’s advocate Amit Mahajan said the probe was incomplete and Thampi’s further custody was required to confront him with two persons.

The probe agency, however, did not disclose the names of the persons who will be called to join the investigation. Thampi was produced before the court on expiry of his three-day ED custody granted earlier.

The case relates to allegations of money laundering in the purchase of a London-based property — located at 12, Bryanston Square — worth 1.9 million pounds, which is allegedly owned by Vadra.

Seeking his further custody, the agency told the court that his interrogation was required to unearth the larger conspiracy. Mahajan told the court that during the earlier custody, three persons were called to join the probe but only one appeared.

“Some progress was made during the earlier remand. Three witnesses were summoned, but only one came. Fresh summons have been issued to the two who will be confronted with the accused and, therefore, more days are required,” Mahajan said.

He added that during the last three days, more financial transactions have surfaced. The agency, also represented by advocates N K Matta and Atul Tripathi, told the court that the pre-arrest bail of the co-accused — Vadra and his close aide Manoj Arora — has been challenged.

Another co-accused, Sanjay Bhandari, is absconding and RCN has been issued against him, the agency further submitted. Opposing the ED’s application for further custody, Thampi’s advocate told the court that the agency only wanted to force him to give answers.

He further said the main beneficiary was on anticipatory bail and no purpose would be solved by extending his custodial interrogation. Thampi was arrested by the ED last week. He is stated to be “controlling” Dubai-based company Sky Lite. In 2009, Bhandari’s firm Santech FZE purchased a London asset from a private company which was acquired by Sky Lite.

Vadra is alleged to have acquired this London-based asset, and few purported emails between him and Bhandari, regarding renovation of the London flat, are part of the evidence in the case.

The agency claimed that Thampi met Vadra through an aide of his mother-in-law, while the latter reportedly told the ED that he only met him on board an Emirates flight some years ago. Thampi, during his earlier grilling session with the ED, claimed that Vadra had stayed at the Bryanston Square property in London. Vadra, in his statement made to the agency, denied the claim.

The agency said that Thampi’s arrest and subsequent custodial grilling will unravel the “missing links” in the case where the ED has charged Vadra with acquiring illegal assets abroad in coordination with Bhandari.

Thampi has been charged by the agency in the past in alleged illegal hawala dealings and land purchase case in the country in 2017 in alleged contravention of the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA).

It had also issued a FEMA show cause notice to Thampi for alleged violation of foreign exchange laws to the tune of over Rs 1,000 crore in the purchase of vast tracts of land in Kerala.

The firms that are being investigated by the ED, as part of the two FEMA show cause notices issued against him, include Holiday City Centre Private Limited, Holiday Properties Private Limited and Holiday Bekal Resorts Private Limited.

The ED said Thampi is also under the scanner for his reported dealings with some politicians and bureaucrats.

The agency earlier told a court that it had received information about various new properties in London which belong to Vadra. These include two houses — one worth 5 million GBP and the other valued at 4 million GBP, six other flats and more properties.

Vadra has consistently denied these charges and has said he will cooperate in the probe. He said he was being “hounded and harassed” to subserve political ends. PTI