During interrogations into the multi-crore scam, Rana Kapoor of the Yes bank fame confessed to Enforcement Directorate (ED) that he was forced to pay Priyanka Gandhi Vadra Rs 2 crores in exchange for an MF Hussain painting that Kapoor never wanted. Kapoor is accused of swindling crores and is being interrogated by Enforcement Directorate (ED).
The ‘art sale’ incident happened in 2010. Kapoor claimed that the then petroleum minister Murli Deora acted as a middleman in the ‘deal.’ Deora threatened Kapoor that his refusal to buy the painting might spoil Yes bank’s relationship with the Gandhi family. Personally, Kapoor might miss out on his chance of winning a Padma Bhushan.
Kapoor added that Ahmed Patel, a close confidante of Sonia Gandhi, later told him that he did a good deed and that the Gandhis used the money for her medical treatment in New York. Kapoor added that Milind Deora, Murli Deora’s son, too confidentially confirmed the same.
A letter from Priyanka Vadra dated June 2010 verified the receipt of a cheque amounting to Rs.2 crores from Kapoor in full and final settlement for the painting. Vadra transferred the funds to her account the next day. Incidentally, that cheque was not a Yes Bank one but that of a foreign one.
Rana Kapoor is the co-founder, former Managing Director, and former Chief Executive of Yes Bank, established in 2004. In 2019, shareholders of the bank forced him to step down from the post of CEO. The statements of Kapoor are part of an ED chargesheet filed recently in a special court. He was arrested in March 2020 under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) and is currently lodged in Taloja jail, Maharashtra.
In 1985, Hussain himself gifted the painting to Rajiv Gandhi during the centenary celebrations of Congress, and it raised eyebrows since Gandhi was also Bharat’s prime minister back then. Even congress members were unsure whether Gandhi accepted it as a personal gift or as the prime minister. Such presents to Bharat’s PM become public property and should ideally move to Toshakhana, located in South Block, where such objects are kept.
The name Toshakhana in itself is a Mughal era hangover. Incidentally, disgraced and ousted Pakistan PM Imran Khan had recently faced similar allegations, and his retort was ‘My gift, my wish.’ Like Khan, Rajiv Gandhi neglected to archive state property and kept it for himself.
If Hussain had gifted the painting to the country, Vadra had no right to sell it or even own it in the first place. On the other hand, if it was a gift to the ‘grand old party,’ Vadra still did not have any rights to sell it unless she had a power of attorney. The question of who it was gifted to and what happened after Rajiv Gandhi died remains unanswered, but the Gandhi family benefitted from it.
As per law, prime ministers cannot retain any gifts that cost more than Rs.5,000, and the whole nation knew that Hussain was selling his crude art for lakhs even in the 1970s. What Gandhi did was not just morally wrong but was also contempt for the laws of the land.
Kapoor alleged that Murli Deora’s son Milind Deora, the former MP from Mumbai South Constituency, was in charge of negotiations. Milind visited Kapoor’s Mumbai residence and pushed him to buy the painting. Sensing reluctance on Kapoor’s part after ignoring junior Deora’s phone calls, the Deoras started calling Kapoor from multiple phone numbers.
In 2010, Murli (the then petroleum minister of Bharat) forced Kapoor to meet him for dinner at Deora’s government allotted Lodhi Estate Bungalow in New Delhi. Deora threatened Kapoor and said that any further delay in purchasing the painting could adversely affect him and his Yes Bank. It could jeopardize his relationship with the Gandhi family.
“Under this threat and against my family’s wishes, since we are not high-value Art Collectors, I could not afford to invite any form of enmity with the two powerful families involved, and thus I had to proceed given the looming and overhanging threat involved hesitatingly,” Kapoor told ED, as per the chargesheet.
Incidentally, in 2008, during the terrorist attack on Mumbai, Yes Bank Chairman Ashok Kapoor was ‘found’ dead in Mumbai’s Trident Hotel. Ashok Kapoor is Rana Kapoor’s brother-in-law, and they both held a 34% stake in Yes bank.
In 2020, after the letter was made public, where Priyanka Gandhi Vadra acknowledged the receipt of Rs. 2 crores, ED officials had said that Priyanka could be summoned for questioning. Congress leaders and Gandhi’s family lawyers downplayed the issue stating that ED cannot club the painting as ‘proceeds of crime,’ that the sale of the artwork was a private commercial transaction and that it was shown in Priyanka Gandhi’s Income Tax declaration.
They never mentioned why the painting was still with the Gandhi family, and the Congress ecosystem ensured that the media unreported the ED charges. This is the same ecosystem that consistently fabricates fake stories and has received several national recognitions during the Congress era.
ED officials said that the buyer and the seller could attract action under Section 3 of the PMLA Act. Section 3 of the PMLA says, “Whosoever directly or indirectly attempts to indulge or knowingly assists or knowingly is a party or is involved in any process or activity connected with proceeds of crime and projecting it as untainted property shall be guilty of the offense of money laundering.”
Now there are allegations that Hussain bought himself a Rajya Sabha seat (1986) and a Padma Vibushan (1991). It is believed that the Gandhis and Congress party leaders are extortionists who sold our national awards. Ideally, isn’t this when the award wapsi gang should return their honors?
The gang returned only their awards and not the cash, which shows how moral they were. Others refused to produce either the money or the plaque, while some could not find the time to do so. As for the awards, currently, they are given to the genuinely deserving ones only. This year it was awarded to former Chief of Defence Staff of the Indian Armed Forces, Bipin Rawat, and three others.
ED lawyers will have to summon Vadra and prove that Hussain gifted the painting to the prime minister’s office and not Rajiv Gandhi and recover the portrait. Government agencies should also investigate the matter further and retrieve the funds from the Gandhi family.
In 2011, Sonia Gandhi left Bharat and headed to the United States for ‘surgery.’ Congress never revealed details of her illness. She has embarked on several such foreign trips for ‘medical treatment.’ Incidentally, MPs claim such medical bills from our national coffers, and ED should also check whether the senior Gandhi has done the same. It should also investigate if the dynasts have any other national treasures hidden in their closets.