THE media coverage of Robert Vadra and his scandalous dealings with DLF might have been passed over by the news media when more pressing issues of the day took over, but subsequent revelations are more damning than the original allegations. When an established private sector bank which is publicly listed at the stock exchange clarified a few days after the scandal broke the jigsaw pieces have started to fall into their places. Corporation Bank clarified that it had not made any overdraft facility available to Robert Vadra for the purchase of the DLF properties as claimed in the balance sheet of Vadra’s group company Shy Light Hospitality.
This flies in the face of the hurried claims made by Union ministers, who wanted to curry favour with the Gandhi family, about the clean business transactions of Robert Vadra. The clean chits came thick and fast so much so that the Arvind Kejriwal team making the allegations was taken by surprise. But after the Corporation Bank’s clarification that the statements in the Sky Light balance sheet were wrong, a full-fledged investigation is imperative.
First, many would question the impropriety of Union ministers to rush to defend private individuals with whatever connections to powerful people. Especially, when the government has been tarred with corruption charges and new scandals tumbling out of the Union cabinet every week. Second, when such charges are made on national media by credible people the first reaction of the government is to institute a preliminary investigation to find out prima facie evidence of law breaking and crime. But instead the Union ministers were seen in competition with each other to come to the defence of Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law Robert Vadra.
Third, as many as four ministries will have to now get involved to make a series of investigations into each of the allegations made by Arvind Kejriwal’s fledgling new political party. Even the Reserve Bank of India will have figure out how credible banking institutions’ names are dragged into unseemly transactions to legitimize wrong doing by private individuals with powerful connections. As these are market sensitive scandals it can badly hit the investors badly. So, will SEBI also get involved in cleaning up the system only time can tell.
Four, if Corporation Bank did not extend the overdraft facility of Rs 7.94-crore then how did Robert Vadra pay that sum and what was the source of his income? Till now the argument has been that such arrangements where corporates extend loans to individuals to buy properties is usual and above board. But when the source is non-existent then the charges become even more serious. How did Robert Vadra pay this sum of Rs 7.94-crore? Did the party which received the cheque of Rs 7.94 crore really encash it?
But from the look of it the Union ministries or the Prime Minister under the influence of Sonia Gandhi do not want to institute any preliminary inquiry leave alone an indepth investigation. Till now the fig leaf was coalition politics dharma, now it is the need to protect the Congress party chief from scandals revealed by Arvind Kejriwal’s party.
Union Information and Broadcasting minister and then Congress spokesperson Manish Tiwari said without equanimity: “you had a press conference (by Arvind Kejriwal) where allegations were made, prima facie they were found to be untrue. A second set of allegations were made by an officer who has an axe to grind or a certain angst against a transfer order and when the details emerged, facts were found to be totally contradictory to what he’s been saying. No evidence has emerged in the public space except for baseless innuendo about quid pro quo.” No wonder a few days later the spokesperson was awarded a ministerial berth.
Revelations regarding Corporation Bank surfaced following the transfer report of Haryana IAS officer Ashok Khemka who allegedly had received transfer order as he had started an investigation into disputed deals between Robert Vadra and Delhi-based real estate giant DLF.
Five, the allegations are grave and there are enough public documents to support them. Robert Vadra, bought over 41 apartments from DLF in its premium projects and subsequently sold them at a huge profit. The apartments were acquired by companies promoted by Vadra, including Sky Light Hospitality which had dealings with DLF. Robert Vadra bought the flats by paying a minimum booking amount. The only exception was that of a luxury pad in the picturesque Aralias, for which he paid the entire sum of Rs 11.9-crore upfront.
The Union ministers who took upon themselves the burden of defending Robert Vadra said that he was ‘golf buddies’with DLF promoters and hence “a lot of things can happen over golf”. But for a listed company to extend loan to private individuals without any recourse or expected returns is hard to believe. The political connection of Robert Vadra was itself quite telling on the transactions.
What is of interest is that Arvind Kejriwal’s documents reveal a pattern in the transaction. Vadra’s dealings with India’s biggest real estate firm came under media purview after rumours were doing the rounds for months that something fishy was going on in DLF. He had booked apartments in three premium DLF projects: Aralias and Magnolias in Gurgaon and Capital Greens in Moti Nagar in Delhi. DLF had made an advance of Rs58-crore to Robert Vadra of which he used a part for the purchase of a 3.5-acre plot in Gurgaon.
The pattern is that apartments were bought for the purpose of trading as Vadra sold 38 of these 41 apartments subsequently, media reports suggest. This clearly suggests that Robert Vadra was making investments in these premium apartments. A DLF spokesman also confirmed that Vadra had bought these apartments in the three projects. He also said that Robert Vadra had later paid around Rs7-crore as delayed payment charges. Why would a real estate developer simply extend a loan to a private individual so that he can profit from it?
Robert Vadra bought 25 apartments in DLF Capital Greens, a premium project constructed on a 38-acre land that DLF acquired from DCM Shriram and the Lohia Group in 2007 for Rs1,675-crore. The upward swing in prices is hard to believe and hence the windfall profit for Robert Vadra. The developer had launched the first phase of the project at around Rs 4,500-5,500 per sq ft, but the prices subsequently increased to Rs 10,000 per sq ft. Robert Vadra bought these apartments during the first phase and sold them in 2010-11.
Also, he booked 15 apartments in DLF Magnolias, a premium project next to a company-owned golf course on the Gurgaon Golf Course road. This project is nearing completion. In this project Robert Vadra has already sold 13 apartments while retaining two units.