Ever since the Bofors scandal broke in 1987, defence deals and agents have become a cause celebre. Barely has the dust settled on the AgustaWestland helicopter deal, another arms dealer and his political connections have hit the headlines and come under the scrutiny of government agencies. In fact, the man in question, Sanjay Bhandari, was barely known to the public even though he led a five-star lifestyle and had a raft of VIP contacts, among them, as enforcement agencies claim, Robert Vadra, son-in-law of Congress president Sonia Gandhi. Bhandari’s shadow world would have remained hidden were it not for a routine raid by income-tax officials on some Delhi-based hawala operators early this year. While probing a particular dealer, one entry was for Rs 116 crore, on behalf of a Delhi-based company. A probe into this company led them to Sanjay Bhandari. On April 26, Bhandari’s offices and houses in Delhi were raided.
Finance ministry officials are still grappling with the mountain of evidence unearthed. Bhandari, the documents seized showed, had a range of high-level contacts, was in possession of classified documents from the defence ministry and also had properties in the UAE and London, as well as a Panama-based company. For the media, the focus remained largely on his Vadra link. Among the hundreds of e-mails sieved by sleuths were exchanges with Vadra over an apartment in London. While the I-T department and Enforcement Directorate (ED) have asked the UAE and UK for ownership details and Vadra’s lawyers have denied ownership or links to the central London property, the issue has become a political slugfest, with the Congress accusing the BJP of making up such cases to finish the Gandhi family.