NRI bizman linked to Robert Vadra arrested

NEW DELHI: C C Thampi, a NRI businessman based in Dubai, was arrested by him during the weekend in a money laundering case against the president of Congress Sonia Gandhi Son in law. The latter has already had more than 13 interrogation sessions with the DE in the last two years in relation to the acquisition of undisclosed properties in Dubai, London and some other foreign countries.

Thampi, as he had admitted before the ED investigating officers earlier, was introduced to Vadra by Sonia Gandhi’s personal assistant P P Madhavan . Thampi was managing Vadra’s alleged front entities in Dubai, including Skylight Hospitality FZE and Skylight Investment FZE that later purchased London properties and a villa in Dubai.

After investigative agencies started trailing Vadra’s connection with Thampi, the latter transferred his 100% shareholding in Skylight Investment FZE, which consists of 1 share of Dirham 1,50,000, to the son of his stepsister, Vadakkethala Cheru Geever, who now owns through this shell company, the London flat at 12 Ellorton House, Bryanston Square, worth Rs 26 crore, and the Dubai villa (E-74, Jumeirah) worth over Rs 14 crore.

The agency suspects these are benami properties of Vadra held in the name of Geever. A multi-agency probe by the Indian government in the past two years revealed that Skylight Investment FZE, now May Fair Investment FZE, had no real business activity and yet huge cash deposits were made in its account just before the purchase of the London flat and the Dubai villa.

Skylight Investment was renamed May Fair Investment FZE on March 30, 2013 soon after the income tax department searched premises of defence dealer Sanjay Bhandari in Delhi-NCR to trail the transactions. Bhandari had first purchased the London flat at Bryanston Square with alleged payoffs from a South Korean multinational conglomerate that had benefited from an oil contract with ONGC. This flat was later transferred to Skylight.

The last provocation was that Thampi evaded the ED interrogation related to some alleged financial transactions sent Cyprus that the agency suspects have been conducted on behalf of the Congress chief’s son-in-law. Thampi has also claimed during his earlier interrogation that Vadra had stayed at the London flat at 12 Bryanston Square, a fact the latter has denied.

According to information received by the ED from UAE authorities, May Fair Investment had till December 2010 declared assets of Dirham 94,83,893 (Rs 12 crore); a villa in Dubai for Dirham 107,41,996 (Rs 14 crore) and a London flat worth Dirham 202,25,889 (Rs 26 crore). May Fair Investment does not have any business activity and its bank account was opened on March 31, 2009 with AED 1,50,000 (Rs 19 lakh). All the assets acquired were through cash deposits in its accounts, sources said.

Vadra Skylight Hospitality Pvt Ltd in India faces multiple cases of money laundering in which the agency has already attached its Sukhdev Vihar home in addition to other assets worth more than Rs 4.62 crore. Vadra was interrogated last February regarding these transactions and his association with Thampi. However, he had denied any knowledge of these transactions.

Thampi faces other cases of violations of the Currency Management Law (Fema) in the purchase of agricultural land in Delhi-NCR and. In 2017, the ED issued a subpoena for acquiring approximately 900 acres of land for Rs 288 million rupees in violation of Fema's rules. Three of its companies involved in the case include Holiday City Center Pvt Ltd, Holiday Properties Pvt Ltd and Holiday Bekal Resorts Pvt Ltd.

Thampi had acquired huge agricultural land in Palwal, NCR, and Gautam Buddha Nagar, UP, through the aforementioned companies, which he otherwise would not have been able to buy, being an NRI, said a senior ED official.