Sanjay Bhandari, the defence consultant whose premises were searched by the Income Tax Department between April 27 and April 30 this year, has admitted that the email trail recovered from his computer was indeed that of messages exchanged between him, Robert Vadra and Vadra’s assistant Manoj Arora.
Officials in the Department have confirmed to The Indian Express that just before the search operation was over, Bhandari was confronted with the batch of emails, including one dated April 4, 2010 — the only one sent from Vadra’s own email ID and signed off by him — and he acknowledged the exchanges on the subject of finalising interiors for an apartment in London.
An attachment to one of the mails shows that while the cost of refurbishing was earlier estimated by Sumit Chadda, a relative of Bhandari, to be 28,000 pounds, additional items were added to the worklist and the estimate went up to 35,000 pounds.
Five days later, on May 5, 2016, the IT’s investigation wing had assessed the significance of the mail trail and sent as many as seven requests to countries for details of this and other property deals involving Bhandari. The requests have since been sent to the British Virgin Islands, United Kingdom and Dubai and replies are awaited.
Officials told The Indian Express that the property in question (located in Bryanston Square, thus several of the emails are titled BS) was registered with the Westminster City Council in the name of Mayfair Properties, a company based in Dubai and thus a reference has been sent to Dubai via the Double Taxation Agreement (DTA) for details of its ownership.
According to information with the Department, the property was bought in 2009 from a company called Vertex FZE which is registered in the British Virgin Islands.
A request has, therefore, also been sent to the tax haven.
Sources said the transaction for the sale of the London property was done with a branch of Barclays Bank in London acting as the custodian and a query has been sent to the “competent authority (CA)” in the UK for the ownership structure of the residence as well as for details of transactions linked to Bhandari’s account.
A query has also been sent for two other properties owned by Bhandari in Dubai and London, details of which have been recovered during last month’s seraches.
The property in Dubai — for which a query has now gone — is called the Royal Gardenia Palms and the one in London is Grosvenor Hill Court located on Bourdon Street for which ownership and purchase details have been sought through official channels.
Income Tax officials said that no preliminary report has been prepared on the Sanjay Bhandari case and a correct picture would emerge only after replies to the queries were received.
Meanwhile, an assessment was being made into how Bhandari made forays into the defence consultancy business and it has emerged that he was appointed as a Director with firms under the Vectra Group, one of the shareholders of Tatra Holdings which had sold trucks to the Indian Army.
The IT Department has also prepared an analysis of the CDRs (call details records) of Bhandari but officials said that neither had his telephone been put under interception nor was there an immediate need to call persons in the “frequently dialed” list for questioning.
Yesterday, Vadra’s lawyers had denied any link with Bhandari and in a statement to NDTV which first reported on the London link, had said that Vadra does not own, directly or indirectly, any house described by you as No 12, Ellerton House, Bryanston Square, London,” and that Vadra and his assistant “have not entered into any transaction of a financial nature with Mr Sanjay Bhandari and are not even aware that Mr Sanjay Bhandari is involved in any defence transaction.”