ED slaps money laundering case against def consultant Bhandari

NEW DELHI, Feb 12: After initiating investigation under forex rules against controversial defence consultant Sanjay Bhandari, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) has now slapped criminal charges of money laundering against him.

The fresh trouble for Bhandari comes amidst reports that he has left the country after Delhi Police booked him for alleged violation of the Official Secrets Act (OSA) last year.

ED officials said the agency has booked Bhandari and some of his associates under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) after taking congnisance of the FIR filed at the Parliament Street police station.

Delhi Police has tasked its crime branch to probe the case.

The Enforcement Directorate, the officials said, will soon issue summons to Bhandari to appear before the investigating officer (IO) of the case.

However, it is reported that the defence consultant has left the country and has not replied to the Delhi Police summons till now.

The ED had, last year, also issued summons to him and his aides to submit documents related to the transactions of their firms as part of its probe into the case under the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA).

While proceedings under FEMA are civil in nature, the ED has now decided to proceed against him under the stringent and criminal PMLA.

The agency’s Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR), equivalent of a police FIR, has taken note of the preliminary investigations done by the Ministry of Defence and the Income Tax Department against Bhandari, as per information accessed by PTI.

ECIR has also recorded the charges made against him under the Official Secrets Act and those for alleged tax evasion by the I-T Department.

The officials said ED would look into the possible generation of ‘proceeds of crime’ by Bhandari, his associates and their business entities.

The case first came to light after the I-T Department conducted searches against him in April last year and recovered certain “sensitive” official defence documents from his premises.

As part of these raids, the taxman is also said to have recovered certain emails that talk about renovation of a costly apartment in London in 2010 which was allegedly owned by Robert Vadra, son-in-law of Congress President Sonia Gandhi.

Vadra’s legal firm has denied that he owned the London property directly or indirectly.

It also denied Vadra has any business ties with an arms consultant or his aides.

The taxman had late last year also shared a “seizure memo record” with the Ministry of Defence to apprise it about the contents of these “sensitive” documents. (PTI)