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ED will probably question Priyanka Gandhi about Rana’s painting

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NEW DELHI: According to the statements recorded by the founder of Yes Bank, Rana Kapoor, with investigators who claim that he was forced to buy a painting of Priyanka Gandhi for Rs 2 crore, the Compliance Department (DE) will soon summon the secretary general of the Congress to question him and it is probable to attach his cabin near Shimla.

In his statement recorded at the DE office in Mumbai on Sunday, Kapoor said former Mumbai deputy Milind Deora pressured him to buy a portrait of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi of Priyanka for Rs 2 crore. According to the law against money laundering, the money taken from Kapoor, a defendant, which Priyanka spent in his cabin near Shimla, qualifies to be treated as “proceeds of crime” and this makes the property vulnerable to the possibility of be tied up by ED.

Sources said Deora was also likely to be questioned regarding the transaction, which ED officials believe was inspired by more than Kapoor’s interest in the painting.

Congress has denied that there is anything wrong with Priyanka selling Raj F’s portrait of Hussain to Kapoor. The party said Sunday that it was a legitimate transaction that Priyanka had revealed in his tax returns. Deora did not comment.

ED sources cited text messages retrieved from Kapoor’s smartphone and his statement that the controversial banker, accused of diverting more than 4 billion rupees from Yes Bank, may not have bought the portrait of his own accord. Citing the emails and text messages that Deora sent from her Black-Berry and that Kapoor had preserved for a decade, sources said the transaction was initiated by Deora.

Deora first wrote to Kapoor on May 1, 2010, asking her to write to “Mrs. Gandhi” showing her willingness to buy the portrait. He pursued the matter vigorously by texting. Deora wrote on May 29, 2010: “Uncle Rana, I received your letter dated May 28 and sent it to PG. A reunion with her or her family will not be possible now, but I will try to organize it later. She and her mother want the check early next week. Even my father has been informed by them and has also been trying to contact you without success. Unfortunately, this has taken a long time. Can you reply to this SMS and tell me the exact date the check can be given, as I MUST communicate the same to my father and her as soon as possible! I know you are receiving SMS, so I would really appreciate your response. “(Sic)

Deora’s enthusiasm for the advance payment to Priyanka appears in the message she sent to Kapoor on June 2, 2010, in which she said: “Uncle Rana, let me know when I can cash the check. I have been assuring you week after week that you are happening and have lost their patience at this stage. Please trust me and don’t delay any more. Tks Milind.

The next day, Kapoor wrote a check for Rs 2 crore to Priyanka from his personal account at HSBC Bank. Investigations showed that it got Yes Bank fully reimbursed – something that officials say meets the “proceeds of crime” threshold under the Money Laundering Prevention Act.

Priyanka recognized the payment of Rs 2 crore as “the total and final payment for the painting of the subject” in a letter to Kapoor the next day. She emphasized that the painting was “currently in her property and possession.” ED sources said the agency would also examine Priyanka’s claim of ownership of the painting Hussain had presented to Rajiv Gandhi at the centennial celebrations of Congress in 1985.

“We have to see if it was owned by the Congress party,” said a source.

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