By polling Robert Vadra and his relationship with the escaping trafficker Sanjay Bhandari, the Directorate Enforcement (ED) is examining whether a 2008 agreement between NGOs and Samsung Engineering Ltd is related to alleged payoffs that were behind purchase of a property in London. The ED is probing Vadra in relation to half a dozen properties in London, which, he claims, are indirectly owned by him. The agency recently told a court in Delhi that one of these properties had been purchased in 2010 with "bribes" through Bhandari. He claimed that these bribes were paid to Bhandari in an "agreement of the oil ministry of the UPA era".
Last week, Vadra's lawyer K T S Tulsi told The Indian Express that his client "has no foreign resources" and that the ED probe was a "smear campaign and not an investigation".
The oil deal that ED told the court, according to sources, is related to a petrochemical complex that the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (NGO) is building in a special economic zone in Dahej, Gujarat, since 2008.
One of the projects of this complex was implemented by Samsung Engineering Ltd, which had taken over the consulting firm of Bhandari, based in the United Arab Emirates, Santech International FZC for consulting services. After the contract was awarded in December 2008, Samsung paid USD 49.9 lakh to Santech on June 13, 2009.
ED claimed that of this money, £ 1.9 million would be transferred to another company called Vortex and then used by Bhandari to acquire a London property currently held by Skylight FZE. The company is promoted by a C C Thampi that has already been questioned by ED.
"We came across the details of the ONGC-Samsung agreement while we were probing Bhandari's finances, and we will now look at the deal with the angle of money laundering," a senior official said. ED.
ED told the court that Bhandari sold the London property to Skylight FZE for the same price he bought despite having incurred restructuring charges of £ 65,000. He also mentioned e-mail exchanges between Vadra and a Bhandari aide in which the restructuring of the property is being discussed.
Vadra is questioned by ED in relation to the properties in London and its links with Bhandari.
Tulsi has previously told the court that her client was "subjected to a farce of criminal prosecution that in reality is not affected by nothing but political revenge and, unfortunately, the defendant, being the agency of contrast, it is part of the offetry and of illegality ".
ONGC and ONGC Petro Additions Limited (OpaL), a special purpose vehicle incorporated by ONGC in 2006, did not respond to phone calls, messages and e-mails despite repeated attempts in the space of two days.
Samsung Engineering spokesman Jin Hartmann said: "Samsung Engineering complies with the laws and regulations in conducting business, including in the project assignment process."
OpaL was incorporated as a special vehicle by ONGC in collaboration with the Gas Authority of India Limited (GAIL) and Gujarat State Petroleum Corp (GPSC). OPaL was to build the largest petrochemical complex in Dahej at a cost of 4.5 billion dollars.
The complex needed to have a dual-feed power unit and associated units with an annual capacity to produce 1.1 million tons of ethylene and 400,000 tons of propylene. To build this parent plant, OPaL has contracted for engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) to a consortium of Samsung Engineering Ltd of Korea and the German engineering company Linde. The late Congressman Murli Deora was oil minister when the agreement was reached.
While Linde had to provide critical components and basic engineering, Samsung was responsible for the installation of the plant and the detailed engineering, in addition to the supply of construction equipment. In February 2017, with three years delay, OPaL announced the complex as commissioned.