While Rahul Gandhi has been taking every opportunity to attack the Centre and the Prime Minister claiming corruption in the Rafale deal between India and France, as per a report by OpIndia, his own link to the circumstances surrounding the deal requires further examination - specifically, a possible connection to arms dealer Sanjay Bhandari via a set of land deals. The same Sanjay Bhandari - an aide of Robert Vadra - is under the scanner of the I-T department and the ED for allegedly receiving kickbacks from petroleum and defence deals under the UPA.
In the aftermath of AgustaWestland middleman Christian Michel being extradited to India, it was revealed that under the UPA, Michel had also attempted to lobby for the Eurofighter Typhoon jet fighter despite Dassault's Rafale being shortlisted in the tendering process. Now, the OpIndia report not only asks whether a trip by Rahul Gandhi to Germany in 2018 involved a meeting with Eurofighter officials, but also claims that Sanjay Bhandari had between 2012 and 2015, attempted to lobby to win a Rafale offset contract. On where the offset discussions went, the report says that Dassault refused to entertain Bhandari, and adds an allegation that Bhandari was connected to a Ministry of Defence file related to the Rafale deal being stolen and later being found on a road.
What the report does then is disclose a possible connection between Bhandari and the Congress president, citing land purchase agreements that bear Rahul Gandhi's name.
The documents accessed OpIndia are from an ED search conducted on one H L Pahwa on May 3, 2017, and May 4, 2017. The documents show that the land dealings are between Rahul Gandhi and HL Pahwa. Pahwa is alleged to be on the payroll of CC Thampi, who is connected to both Sanjay Bhandari and Robert Vadra.
The documents seized by the ED reveal that Rahul Gandhi had bought 5 acres of land located at Hassanpur, Palwal on March 3, 2008, from HL Pahwa for Rs. 26,47,000.
As seen in the documents, in File C page 57, the stamp duty on this transaction was paid in cash. This makes Rahul Gandhi, who paid the stamp duty, the buyer in the deal. Another important information that is seen in the documents is that Pahwa wanted to sell the land at Rs. 33,22,003 but sold it to Rahul Gandhi Rs. 26,47,000.
Further, it is not only Rahul Gandhi who has links with Pahwa. Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and Robert Vadra have also entered into land deals with him.
Mahesh Nagar who is Robert Vadra's close aide, had bought property allegedly on behalf of Robert Vadra not just in Haryana but also in Rajasthan, says a 2012 report. The report adds that Pahwa, a resident of Gurgaon, sold nine acres of land in Hasanpur village in Haryana’s Palwal district to Nagar. The report says that the buyer, via power-of-attorney vested in Nagar, was Robert Vadra.
Priyanka Gandhi had also purchased land from HL Pahwa, as per the document, on April 28, 2006, by paying Rs. 15,00,000 in 2 cheques and sold it back to him for Rs. 84,15,006 via several cheques between May 22, 2009, and September 11, 2009. Pahwa made these purchases despite allegedly having a negative cash balance at the time.
The report goes on to detail the means by which Pahwa was able to make the purchases without having the required cash on hand: It states that ED documents reveal that Pahwa had received Rs 54 crore from CC Thampi, who, as mentioned earlier is connected to a number of deals of Robert Vadra that are under the scanner including overseas and Indian land deals and a petroleum deal.
The final connection that the report makes is between Thampi and Bhandari and the point of contact is the sale of a property in the UK. The property in question was allegedly purchased by Bhandari's company using kickbacks received in a 2005 UPA defence deal and a 2009 UPA petroleum deal, and following a renovation allegedly ordered by Robert Vadra, sold to CC Thampi's company.