ED issues notice to Robert Vadra's Skylight in Bikaner land deal case

The Enforcement Directorate has issued a notice under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) to Skylight Hospitality Ltd, a Bikaner, Rajasthan-based hotel owned by Congress president Sonia Gandhi's son-in-law Robert Vadra.

The PMLA notice to Vadra's firm pertains to a land deal in Rajasthan's Bikaner district. The firm had allegedly purchased 275 bighas of land in the Kolayat area of the border town of Bikaner. The ED has given the company time till 24 June to file its reply.

The ED has also asked the company to submit certain financial statements and other documents to the Investigating Officer (IO) in connection with the transaction, according to a India TV report.

The ED had conducted extensive searches in in Rajasthan and other places last month in connection with the case and had seized a number of documents related to the Vadra firm's transaction with DLF, which had been under the scanner for a long time..

The agency had also conducted similar searches in the case in Delhi last year.

The agency had registered a criminal case of money laundering in this case last year on the basis of FIRs filed by the state police after the local tehsildar had made a complaint.

The ED did not mention the name of Vadra or any company linked to him in the FIR but it named some state government officials and some of the "land mafia".

However, while filing the case, it had taken cognizance of reports that had referred to a firm allegedly linked to Vadra, which had made these purchases. Vadra has denied any wrongdoing even as Congress party called the action "sheer political vendetta".

Rajasthan government had in January last year cancelled the mutation (transfer of land) of 374.44 hectares of land, after the land department allegedly found the allotments to have been made in the names of "illegal private persons".

The tehsildar had in his complaint said the land mafia, in connivance with government officials has managed to grab government land in 34 villages of Bikaner reserved for expanding the Army's firing range, by preparing "forged and fabricated documents".

The ED suspects large-scale money laundering in this case by people buying land at cheap rates through forged documents.

The state government had, while cancelling the mutations, said these were not issued by the Commissioner, Colonisation, Bikaner. The state police had also filed charges in 18 cases in a court in Kolayat last year.

Reports said, under the earlier Congress government in the state, the police had given a clean chit to Vadra's firm in the case of illegally grabbing land in Bikaner. But the BJP government has now rubbished the report saying probe against Vadra is still underway.