On December 3, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) executed search operations at premises associated with Vaibhav Gehlot, a member of the All India Congress Committee and the son of Former Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot. This development is part of an ongoing investigation into a forex violation case.
The ED’s focus on Vaibhav Gehlot is intricately connected to an investigation involving a Rajasthan-based hospitality group, Triton Hotels and Resorts, and its directors and promoters, namely Shiv Shankar Sharma, Rattan Kant Sharma, and others. The case revolves around the alleged violation of the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA).
The genesis of the case lies in a complaint filed by two Jaipur residents in 2015, accusing Vaibhav Gehlot of using a shell company to unlawfully finance Triton Hotels. The complaint suggests that he utilised a Mauritius-based firm named ‘Shivnar Holdings,’ suspected to be a shell company, to channel funds to Triton Hotels.
The allegations further detail the purchase of approximately 2,500 shares of the hotel at an inflated share price, aimed at diverting funds into the hotel’s account. The shares were reportedly bought at Rs 39,900 each, significantly higher than the original share price of Rs 100 per share.
According to the ED, their investigation unveiled Triton Group’s involvement in hawala transactions with cross-border implications.
In a related development in October 2023, the ED had issued a summons to Vaibhav Gehlot, directing him to appear before the investigating officer at its headquarters on APJ Abdul Kalam Road, invoking provisions of the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA). Subsequently, Gehlot visited the agency’s office in Delhi for questioning regarding the case.
The recent ED searches are an extension of their previous raids against Triton Hotels & Resorts Pvt. Ltd., Vardha Enterprises Pvt. Ltd., and their directors and promoters, Shiv Shankar Sharma, Rattan Kant Sharma, and others. Notably, in August of the previous year, the ED had conducted searches at Triton Hotels, spanning locations in Jaipur, Udaipur, Mumbai, and Delhi. During these operations, the agency seized unaccounted cash amounting to Rs 1.2 crore.