BJP has cited arms dealer Sanjay Bhandari to hit back at the Congress amid the opposition’s bid to corner the Modi govt on the Rafale deal.
New Delhi: The unrelenting slugfest between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress over the Rafale deal took a new twist this week as the former dragged Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s brother-in-law Robert Vadra and his “friend” Sanjay Bhandari, a fugitive arms dealer, into the picture.
BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra alleged that under the Congress-led UPA administration, Bhandari “extended favours” to Vadra in a bid to get the offset contract with Dassault Aviation. Bhandari owns a firm called Offset India Solutions.
Union minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat said at a press conference Tuesday that the Congress president’s attack on the Rafale deal was meant to get it cancelled since his “brother-in-law and friend… have been denied brokerage”.
But what Shekhawat did not mention was that Bhandari, a defence consultant and liaison services provider, is yet another high-profile ‘offender’ who fled the country on the Modi government’s watch in 2016.
Bhandari set up his flagship company, Offset India Solutions (OIS) Group, in 2008. As the name suggests, the company implemented offsets obligations for foreign armament companies.
The case against Sanjay Bhandari
The arms dealer was being pursued for several alleged offences, including financial irregularities and unauthorised possession of sensitive information about defence contracts, when he reportedly flew the coop towards the end of 2016.
Bhandari is said to have escaped India via Nepal, despite the fact that his passport had been confiscated by the income tax department, one of the agencies investigating him.
In early 2016, by when his company had grown into a multi-crore venture, OIS came under the scanner of the income tax authorities and the Enforcement Directorate for alleged money laundering and violations of the Foreign Exchange Management Act.
It was during the ensuing raids at his flat in Delhi’s Defence Colony that he was reportedly found to be in possession of confidential military procurement documents that should have been with the ministry of defence.
This included a proposal to buy mid-air refuellers, and proposals put up before the defence acquisition committee as well as those for acquisitions sent to the defence procurement policy wing.
According to documents seized during the raids, Bhandari was reportedly in touch with several journalists and high-profile leaders across the political spectrum, and also had properties in the UAE and London. He was allegedly also found to own a company in tax haven Panama.
He was subsequently booked under the Official Secrets Act by Delhi Police.
During the raids, investigators reportedly discovered some email exchanges with Vadra, about Bhandari getting an apartment in London, allegedly a benami property of the former, refurbished for multiple crores. Bhandari himself, sources said, admitted being close to Vadra.
The Congress, however, denied that Vadra owned the London property and accused the BJP of trying to malign the Gandhi family.
In January, a Delhi court declared Bhandari an offender under the Official Secrets Act.