Robert Vadra is a PEP (Politically Exposed Person).

See also: Why should UPA ministers rally to defend Robert Vadra’s wealth of over Rs 300 crore in three years?


Why are UPA Union Ministers defending a private citizen, Robert Vadra? He is a PEP (Politically Exposed Person).

To combat corruption and money laundering, Financial Action Tas Force (FATF) has extended extend the definition of a “Politically Exposed Person” (PEP) to include domestic PEPs as opposed to the former definition that only considered foreign PEPs.

The Future of AML? - FATF updates its Recommendations
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In addition the definition now also considers those “entrusted with a prominent function by an international organisation“ to be PEPs, and the definition extends to family or close associates of a PEP. These recommendations are clearly aimed at making it more difficult for corrupt politicians to bank their ill-gotten gains.

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Kejriwal breaks ‘Omerta Code’ on DLF-Vadra ‘sweetheart deal’

by  Oct 6, 2012

They came in waves, like silent armies that move in the night. Each of the Congress Ministers and party leaders who were seen studio-hopping or otherwise implanting themselves in front of cameras late on Friday had been assigned a specific role: to defend the First Family of Indian politics against the most audacious allegation of corruption levelled by Arvind Kejriwal and Prashant Bhushan, the two Johnny-come-latelys to the world of politics, against rajmata Sonia Gandhi‘s son-in-law Robert Vadra.

And although the intimate details of Vadra’s ‘sweetheart deal’ with real estate developer DLF have been in the public domain for more than a year, and although other high-profile anti-corruption campaigners like Subramanian Swamy have in the past pointed to the taint of corruption surrounding Vadra’s business operations, this time around, there was an uncharacteristic hunted look about the Congress foot soldiers.

Perhaps the avalanche of corruption scandals of recent years surrounding the UPA government, headed by the Congress, has begun to take its toll. Or perhaps it was just the fact that Kejriwal and Bhushan, novice politicians that they are, had shattered the ‘Omerta code’ of silence – which dictates that allegations of corruption against family members of top-rung political leaders aren’t articulated in public, not even by the principal Opposition party.

Robert Vadra faces the heat. PTI

Whatever the reason, the armies of the Dynasty were palpably less than a match for the outpouring of outrage generated by the allegations of corruption going right up to the top – toSonia Gandhi‘s family.

Union Law Minister Salman Khurshid, who appeared all of Friday evening to be a Gandhi family retainer, made a colossal hash of his defence of Vadra, and rather than risk losing the argument in its entirety, he pulled off his earpiece and microphone and slithered off screen on at least two separate programmes, evidently unable to take the heat.

Likewise, on CNN-IBN, Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan, after a futile attempt to deflect attention away from the allegations against Vadra, too walked away, leaving behind a Jayanthi Natarajan-shaped hollow on our television screens. In large part, the Congress defence of the DLF-Vadra ‘sweetheart deal’ rested on very infirm ground. First, they argued, the DLF-Vadra deal, under which Vadra probably secured an unsecured, interest-free loan from DLF, the proceeds of which were then used to purchase a clutch of DLF property at a substantial discount to the then prevailing market prices, was a transaction between two private parties, which was not open to question by anyone other than the shareholders of DLF.

In any case, they claimed, there is no evidence of any quid pro quo: there was nothing in the documents that were furnished by Kejriwal and Bhushan to establish how DLF had benefited from the transaction. If DLF, in its benevolence, wanted to given an unsecured, interest-free loan – and sell property at a substantial discount – to anyone, that doesn’t establish a prima facie case of corruption in the manner that had been alleged. Everyone from Sonia Gandhi to DLF to Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda claimed that all the trasnactions were transparent and abided by the highest standards of ethics. But the man at the centre of it all – Vadra himself – thus far remains incommunicado. But the Congress’ and the DLF’s and Hooda’s defence – “trust us, there’s nothing wrong with these transactions” – doesn’t wash, not after what is known of the UPA government’s record of the past three years in attempting to bury any and every corruption trail – unless it was dragged kicking and screaming to the courts.

For starters, Vadra isn’t just any private individual: first, he is Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law, operating in a political culture where anyone in such close proximity to power wields enormous influence, within the government as well as the ruling party. That alone requires that any undue favours he may have secured – and he did in the DLF deal – ought to be subjected to the most rigorous investigation.

Second, DLF too benefited from allotments of large tracts of land from the Haryana and Delhi governments. Given that both of these were Congress governments at the time of Vadra’s business transactions with DLF, it does raise the needle of suspicion that one was correlated to the other. For sure, there is no ‘smoking gun’ evidence to establish that Vadra in any way peddled his influence to secure the land for DLF, but in matters like this, there seldom is.

From a cursory look at the balance-sheets of Vadra’s companies, it isn’t clear if he got an unsecured loan (in the way that Kejriwal and Bhushan suggest) or if he secured an advance on land sold to DLF. But if it is an unsecured, interest-free loan, that puts Vadra in the same indefensible position as DMK MP Kanimozhi, who is facing prosecution in the 2G scam case. (DMK-run Kalaignar TV, in which Kanimozhi has a stake, received over Rs 200 crore from Shahid Balwa’s DB Group; the CBI believes it was a “bribe” paid for favours shown to the DB Group through Telecom Minister Raja; Kalaignar TV claimed it was an unsecured “loan” which it returned.) But in either case, the entire transaction has all the trappings of a ‘sweetheart deal’, and given the meteoric rise in Vadra’s business fortunes in just three years, and the fact that DLF too benefited from land allotments from Congress governments, it reeks of corruption.

That ‘missing link’ may be impossible to establish, but just the fact that the Congress foot soldiers have dismissed the demand for an impartial investigation shows the brazenness with which they operate today. It is the same brazenness that accounts for Vadra’s very public acknowledgement in the Registrar of Companies documents to acknowledge the undue favours he received from DLF.

Congress apologists point to it to claim that it shows up the transaction as transparent. On the contrary, it signals rather more that Vadra knew all along that no one would dare investigate it. Where did that cocksure arrogance spring from? When details of Vadra’s suspect business dealings first surfaced in March 2011, in Economic Times, it created something of a stir in political circles. Both the BJP and the Left claimed they would corner the Congress on Vadra’s meteoric rise (details here).

But as columnist Swapan Dasgupta noted within days of the report coming out, there was resistance from within the BJP itself to raising the Vadra issue. Subsequently, the party chickened out completely from raising the issue – evidently abiding by the Omerta Code of politics. As contemporaneous media reports had it: “Differences were evident at a meeting of BJP leaders in Parliament… with some leaders advocating caution while some others felt Congress could be asked some questions on Vadra’s activities. Leader of Opposition in the Lok Saba Sushma Swaraj felt it would not be good form to target family members of political rivals.” The argument within the BJP, evidently, was that that “political battles would get out of hand if they got ‘personal’”; BJP president Nitin Gadkari too expressed himself in favour of “weighing the evidence carefully”.

It is this that makes a mockery of the BJP’s enthusiastic embrace on Friday of Kejriwal’s and Bhushan’s allegations against Vadra. Whether they will be just as vociferous if Kejriwal and Bhushan target a high-profile BJP leader next, as is suspected, will be revealing. Kejriwal and Bhushan, being new entrants to the field of politics, are looking to bomb the citadels of power. For sure, they haven’t produced the ‘smoking gun’ evidence against Vadra this time, but given the cloak-and-dagger nature of such operations, that may prove impossible to produce.

Which is why they have instead opted for a ‘name-and-shame’ tactic by going public with their allegations. It’s not the most honourable course, but when you’re dealing with a feckless government and a party that will do its damnedest to cover up its corruption, particularly when, as in this case, it leads right up to the palace gates, there is greater dishonour in remaining silent, in the way that the BJP and much of the media has done.

144 comments (Appended)

Gutsy Kejriwal takes battle straight into 10 Janpath

by  Oct 5, 2012

The unwritten Lakshman Rekha in Indian politics has been breached. For the first time the Nehru-Gandhi family is under direct attack on charges of corruption. The Bofors case was an exception but it originated abroad and it initially involved someone whose connection to the family was rather distant. This time it is much closer.

Arvind Kejriwal barged into the no go area on Friday while bringing Robert Vadra, husband of Priyanka Gandhi and son-in-law of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, into his line of fire.

Prima facie it appears that some of the facts on various transactions between Vadra and DLF would stand to scrutiny and is thus sure to bring the corruption debate back to the front burner. The Congress-led UPA had temporarily succeeded in diverting the public attention from the subject by launching a reforms blitzkrieg. The charges would cause injuries to the party and the family in innumerable ways.

Priyanka Gandhi and Robert Vadra. AFP.

Kejriwal charges did hurt where he intended it to hurt. He madeSonia Gandhi react rather instantly, something that never happened in the past. Since Vadra is said to be out of the country and thus is not in a position to defend himself Sonia took the charge, both as the Congress president and also as a mother-in-law. She countered the charges, saying “(there’s) no misuse of (his position) by Robert”. She also reportedly described the charges as an attempt to “sensationalise” the issue.

Taking the cue, the entire senior Congress leadership and the government vied against each other to present a better defence for Vadra. The crux of their argument is, as a citizen he had a right to do whatever business he chose. The line of defence was more on rhetorical lines than on merits of charges leveled against him.

Privately, a good number of Congress leaders and workers had for long been apprehensive of landing in a situation like this. There had been hush-hush talks of aggressive business deals by Vadra. He was always considered to be the weak link in the family that they have been taught to worship.

They understand that an attack of this nature against Vadra could land them in an existential crisis since the UPA and the Congress are already fighting serious corruption charges in the CWG, 2G and Coalgate cases. Allegations of misappropriation of wealth by Vadra lead directly into 10 Janpath.

The trouble for the Congress gets compounded because he happens to be husband of Priyanka, who is considered to be Congress’s `brahmashtra’ – the ultimate weapon with the party against the opposition – should Rahul Gandhi fail to deliver electoral results.

There have been quite a few occasions when party leaders had been in a difficult position explaining Vadra’s conduct. In UP assembly elections, he campaigned in Rae Bareli, leading a bike rally. It was something that did not go down with family loyalists and sympathisers inSonia Gandhi‘s home turf. Vadra faced criticism from various quarters and soon abandoned his rally.

Earlier, he had said that he could win from any constituency in the country and had also revealed that there was a serious move for him to contest from Sultanpur, a neighbouring constituency of Amethi and Rae Bareli in UP.

So far as the charges made by Kejriwal are concerned, the Economic Times had reported a good portion of that last year. But no political party made it an issue and beyond some murmurings in political and business circles, nothing much happened. The story then “died a natural death”. But going by the initial heat that it has generated, it is not going to die down any time soon.

Kejriwal shoots at Vadra from DLF’s shoulder, shocks Congress

by  Oct 5, 2012

Arvind Kejriwal claims to have exposed the nexus between Sonia Gandhi‘s son-in-law Robert Vadra and construction firm DLF. On Friday, Kejriwal provided details obtained from the Registrar of Companies which show that DLF gave properties to Vadra’s companies at throwaway prices.

“It is simple. It looks that DLF wanted to give money to Robert Vadra for which some companies were created,” said Keriwal.

According to the document released by Kejriwal, with share capital of Rs 50 lakh, five companies created by Vadra acquired companies worth more than Rs 300 crore during 2007-10.

Members of India Against Corruption Arvind Kejriwal and Prashant Bhushan showing documents during a press conference in New Delhi on Friday. PTI

“The ostensible seed money for this acquisition is shown to have come from unsecured interest free loans from DLF Ltd (over Rs 65 crore). The bulk of the properties are also purchased from DLF at a price is shown far below the market price,” said the document.

“Is DLF giving all these properties to Robert Vadra because the Congress party is giving undue favours to DLF? Prima facie, this is crime under Prevention of Corruption Act and Income Tax Act. But the question remains that who will investigate the cases against the son-in-law of the ruling dynasty?”said senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan.

“These are just cases highlighted only on the website of the Registrar of Companies. We are sure there are many more cases,” he added.

List of 13 properties bought by Robert Vadra’s group of companies as mentioned by Kejriwal, include 50 percent share in Hilton Garden Inn hotel, Delhi, 10,000 square feet apartment in DLF Aralias, Gurgaon, apartment in DLF capital greens, Delhi, 161 acres of land in Bikaner and properties in Haryana.

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