The Enforcement Directorate on Friday conducted searches against three persons linked to Robert Vadra, son-in-law of Congress leader Sonia Gandhi, for allegedly receiving 'commissions' in defence deals and stashing illegal assets abroad, prompting the opposition party to accuse the Modi government of indulging in 'vendetta' sensing defeat in state polls.
While the Congress party spokesperson Randeep Surjewala alleged that Prime Minister Narendra Modi 'is acting like a don', Vadra's lawyer Suman Khetan alleged that the ED officers did not show any search warrant and said premises of his client have been raided in a 'brazen affront' to the rule of law and to the Constitution.
This is for the first time that Vadra's associates have been linked to alleged commissions received in defence deals by the ED.
The raids that began around 12 noon were carried out at multiple premises in Delhi-NCR and Bengaluru, they said.
"The searches were carried out at the premises of two employees of firms linked to Vadra and another person. These people are suspected to have received commissions out of a defence deal and they subsequently invested these funds to procure illegal assets abroad," ED sources claimed.
They said they have some 'fresh evidence' to take action.
They, however, did not disclose the names of the people whose premises were searched or the defence deal under their scanner stating that the 'search action was ongoing'.
The raids come three days after the Central Bureau of Investigationextradited Christian James Michael, the alleged middleman in Rs 3,700 crore AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal.
Reacting to the ED action, Vadra's lawyer Khaitan alleged that the ED teams entered the premises of associates of his client without showing 'search warrants'.
He alleged that the government was using its agencies to harm the reputation of his client.
He claimed that the premises were locked from inside and alleged that evidence was being fabricated.
The Congress alleged political motive in the move and alleged that sensing defeat in state polls, an 'unnerved' Modi government was unleashing 'vendetta' against Vadra.
There was no immediate reaction from the BJP on Congress's comments.
"Sure shot defeat in five states has unnerved Prime Minister Modi to again use the same old trick -- unleash revenge and vendetta against Mr Robert Vadra (Congress chief Rahul Gandhi's brother-in-law) to divert the narrative," Surjewala alleged at a press conference.
Instead of acting as independent investigative agencies, the CBI, the ED and the Income Tax department are acting as 'personal slaves and political agents' of Modi, he claimed.
Politics of revenge and malicious vendetta have today reached its nadir, he said.
Outside one of the premises searched by the ED, Khetan said, "They (ED officers) did not show any search warrant, broke the locks and now preventing people from coming out."
"For five years, the present rulers have used every trick in the book to persecute, to hound and to malign my client, Robert Vadra.
"The government has unleashed all its agencies including ED, CBI and Income Tax to victimise Robert Vadra in an utterly mala fide manner and to harm his reputation and attack his family members," he said in his statement.
Khaitan alleged it was part of a "sinister agenda" that the ED officers from Jaipur and Delhi raided the office at Sukhdev Vihar, and also the residence of his associate at Noida.
"The raids have been continuing since morning in a completely illegal fashion with no employee or lawyer being permitted to enter the premises," he said.
In his remarks, Surjewala also alleged that in the past 54 months, the Modi government has let loose a criminal conspiracy to 'vilify, denigrate and malign' Vadra to settle political scores.
"As all else failed, the Modi government has unleashed all its agencies including ED, CBI and Income Tax to victimise Robert Vadra in an utterly mala fide manner," he alleged.
Surjewala claimed that in a 'brazen affront' to the rule of law and to Constitution, on the polling day, ED officers from Jaipur and Delhi raided the office of Vadra in Sukhdev Vihar and the residence of his associate, the associate's sister and her in-laws at Noida, without any FIR or search warrant.
He also pointed to Vadra's lawyer statement that all this was done without even registration of an offence or an FIR against Vadra and there was an apprehension over planting of false and fabricated material in their office.
"Over last four-and-a-half years, this is the consistent vicious design of the Modi government to settle political scores against all opponents including over the dozen senior leaders of the Congress party," he alleged.