In what could spell more trouble for the Gandhi family and Robert Vadra, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) has reportedly arrested NRI businessman C C Thampi who is being probed for alleged forex violations of over Rs 1,000 crore and other charges, under the anti-money laundering law.
An ED official said, “Thampi was arrested from New Delhi on Friday evening in connection with its probe involving overseas’ assets of Vadra.”
Thampi’s arrest comes in the wake of the investigation involving Vadra, who is being probed in a money laundering case involving foreign assets worth pound 1.9 million in the UK. Following his arrest, it is important to note how Thampi became the blue eyed boy of the Gandhi family and other Congress leaders as he was the close aide of Vadra.
To get an idea of Thampi’s clout in the UPA government and Kerala, it should be highlighted here that he was projected as an ideal businessman by none other than Doordarshan, which conducted an idealistic profile of the controversial man in the year 2013.
The central agency has been probing Thampi in a case of purchase of property in Kerala in alleged contravention of the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA), unearthing his unlawful plans. The ED said in a statement, “Thampi, an NRI, had acquired huge agricultural land mass in Palwal and Faridabad districts of Haryana in the name of his company Holiday City Centre Pvt Ltd by circumventing the prescribed law of land and in contravention of extant provision of FEMA.”
ED further said that by using the “said funds he had acquired a huge agricultural land mass in Palwal, National Capital Region (NCR) and Gautam Buddha Nagar in Uttar Pradesh through the above mentioned companies, which he otherwise would not have been able to purchase, being a person residing outside India. The agricultural land purchased by Thampi through the above mentioned companies in contravention of the relevant provisions of FEMA has also been proposed therein for confiscation to the Central government account.” It added, “The FEMA contravention identified in the show cause notice is over Rs.288 crore ($43.2 million).”
The UAE-based hotelier and real estate businessman had an extraordinary influence in the UPA government as confirmed with the unearthing of the Sanjay Bhandari case. “Investigation has revealed that CC Thampi had funded this land deal involving Pahwa and Gandhi. The people of the country will know that Thampi is also being probed. Thampi’s friendship with Robert Vadra and controversial arms dealer Sanjay Bhandari is well known,” Union Minister Smriti Irani had said in March 2019.
According to a report, Thampi entered into Sonia Gandhi family coterie in early 2000s when most of the Congress MPs from Kerala were enjoying his hospitality in Gulf. Thampi is close to several Congress leaders such as Shashi Tharoor, AK Antony, KV Thomas and other Congress leaders like Ramesh Chennithala and P C Chacko. It is a known secret that Thampi was the host of former Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan, when he visited Dubai in 2009. This further explains his influence in all the sections of the government, which is not possible without the backing of the ruling Gandhi family.
During the UPA regime, Thampi was not only close to Congress leaders but became close to the Gandhi family through her controversial private secretary Vincent George, who also hails from Kerala. Thampi’s hospitality in Dubai has been enjoyed by Vadra and Rahul Gandhi for the past 13 years. Thampi has played a role as a broker or middleman in several deals concerning the Gandhi family. However he had told the ED during interrogation in 2017 that he met Vadra through Sonia Gandhi’s private secretary Madhavan. This alludes that he knew Sonia Gandhi even before Robert Vadra, it also confirms that he was closely connected to Congress chief Sonia Gandhi. Thampi’s influence in the Gandhi family was the sole reason behind him getting several acres of lands in prominent places of many states bypassing several laws. According to his website, he is running a hotel chain called as the Holiday Group and many real estate companies. He also runs an engineering college in Kerala known as Thejas Engineering College.
According to reports, the agencies have also come across several properties, including a property worth 1.9 million pounds, another property worth 4 million pounds, one more property worth 5 million pounds and six other flats. These properties are in London and the agencies suspect it may be associated with Vadra. The total worth of properties is over 12 million pounds. These properties are connected to Thampi and are considered as parts of kickbacks received in several deals brokered by Thampi.
A swift and concentrated investigation by the ED would reveal the amount of the influence Thampi had and why he was indispensable to the Gandhi family. The ED must ensure that every aspect of deals of Thampi is revealed. His case would also uncover the secretive dealings of the Gandhi family and their businesses. It must also be ensured that Thampi’s contacts in the government agencies are revealed in order to put an end to his clout. Congress must also clarify over its leaders’ relations with Thampi as it is depressing to explore the luxuries he enjoyed during the UPA regime.