Arms dealer Sanjay Bhandari, who is under the scanner of multiple investigating agencies, is feared to have fled the country.
Government sources suspect Bhandari might have reached London via Nepal, evading a look -out notice issued against him. Bhandari was earlier stopped from boarding a London-bound British Airways flight in June. He was charged under sections 3 and 5 of the Official Secrets Act (OSA) by Delhi Police in October after the Income Tax sleuths recovered confidential defence documents during the search operation on his premises in April.
Despite several attempts, Delhi Police Special C P (Crime) Taj Hassan was not available for comments. The repeated attempts to get in touch with Home Ministry officials too did not elicit any response.
The latest escape by the arms dealer might invite more embarrassment to the Centre with opposition already criticising it for failing to extradite Vijay Mallya and others. London, sources said, is becoming a safe and luxurious refuge for Indians fleeing the law enforcement agencies. Earlier in March liquor baron Vijay Mallya had fled to London and soon acquired a UK residence permit. Bhandari would join at least 57 other tainted individuals, who law enforcement agencies suspect, are living with ease in UK.
The I-T investigation wing during the raids on April 27 at his residence had found emails, linking Bhandari with Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law Robert Vadra, which was later denied by Vadra’s lawyers. Sources said although Bhandari had appeared before the Income Tax, he was evasive on alleged financial links tied to UK, UAE and Dubai. The investigators are awaiting response to collect details about the companies Bhandari used to channelise alleged slush funds to buy properties abroad.
After registration of case under OSA, fresh summons were issued against Bhandari for questioning few weeks ago. Documents recovered from Bhandari’s premises reveals that he made investment in two properties in Dubai and London using companies registered in tax haven countries. The agencies are likely to question individuals linked with Bhandari. As earlier reported by Express, Bhandari was in touch with some top guns of the country including a top officer of the finance ministry, who retired from the service last year.
The ongoing probe is also examining Bhandari’s links with Thales group, a French multinational company and European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS) that makes commercial and military aircraft, space systems and other defence products.
Bhandari, investigators suspect, is involved in Indian Air Force’s basic trainer aircraft purchase for which a deal worth around Rs 4,000 crore was signed during previous UPA regime in 2012. The investigators are probing tax evasion cases into Bhandari’s companies ‘Offset India Solutions Private Limited’ and ‘Avaana Software and Services Private Limited’. A source said they are also examining Micromet Ati India Private Limited formed in 2010, which is also under the scanner for alleged tax evasion.