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UAE-based Indian businessman arrested by ED in Delhi

Enforcement Directorate has arrested NRI businessman C C Thampi in a money laundering probe related to properties in London allegedly linked to Congress President Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law Robert Vadra, two officials said on Monday.

Thampi’s arrest comes at a time when ED is seeking cancellation of Vadra’s anticipatory bail, granted on April 1 last year, in the Delhi High Court.

An ED officer who asked not to be named said Thampi was summoned to Delhi and arrested on Friday.

The investigation was first launched after arms dealer Sanjay Bhandari was raided by the Income Tax department in April 2016 during which documents pertaining to a property, 12, Ellorton House, Bryanston Square in London worth 1.9 million pounds were recovered. ED has claimed that the property belongs to Vadra and that Thampi, Dubai based controller of Sky Lite Investments FZE and owner of Holiday Group, played a crucial role in acquiring it.

ED claims that Bhandari, who fled to the UK via Nepal in December 2016 after the NDA government booked him under the officials secrets act, Thampi and Vadra devised a scheme of money laundering by way of transferring the proceeds of crimes multiple times from one individual to other.

Vadra said: “It’s a free for all in this country…truth has no place. Witch-hunt continues for almost a decade. Another decade more and we will be referring to what happened in 2010, 2011, 2012 and on and on.”

“From the complaint filed under the Black Money Act, it was noticed that $ 4.9 million was received on June 13, 2008 in undisclosed bank accounts of a company Santech International FZE Dubai (company owned by Bhandari). A company Sky Lite Investment, which conducted no business, was floated in April 2009 by Thampi for the purpose of acquiring immovable assets,” ED claimed in its remand paper submitted in the court. Interestingly, Sky Lite Investment has a similar name to Skylight Hospitality Pvt Ltd , which Robert Vadra owns in India and which has been under investigation in multiple cases including those concerning land deals in Gurugram and Bikaner.

“Bhandari identified a villa – D-44 at Palm Jumeriah Dubai — to be purchased through Sky Lite for 8.8 million Dirhams in November 2009. The transaction didn’t materialize but the fact remains that this transaction about property to be purchased in the name of Sky Lite of Thampi was monitored by Bhandari as the draft MoU for purchase was sent by the buyers to Bhandari and not to Sky Lite Investment FZE,” ED added.

Then, Bhandari purchased London mansion through his British Virgin Islands based company Vortex Management Holdings. In June 2010, the property was bought by Thampi through Sky Lite.

ED suspects that this property at Bryanston Sqaure was acquired through pay-offs in a petroleum deal during UPA government in 2009.

In 2011, the name of Sky Lite was changed to Mayfair Investment FZE “in an attempt to remove possibility of finding any links between name of companies of Vadra in India and in UAE by investigating agencies” according to ED.

Interestingly, Thampi transferred 100% shares of the company to his nephew, Geever Vadakkthelu Cheru in 2011, who works as a driver in the UAE and is illiterate, “without any monetary consideration”, ED said

“Thampi, during questioning last April, failed to explain why Bhandari was monitoring purchase of properties by his companies and why the company was given to somebody else without any monetary consideration,” said a second ED officer.

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