Painting sale costs dear to Priyanka

SMSes reveal how Yes Bank founder Rana Kapoor bought Rs 2 crore painting from Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, writes TEHELKA BUREAU

The Enforcement Directorate has attached a portrait of late Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi which the Yes Bank co-founder Rana Kapoor bought from Congress General Secretary, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra for Rs 2 crores.

A number of SMSs sent by Congress leader Milind Deora to Rana Kapoor in 2010, to facilitate the purchase of the said painting show how Deora repeatedly asked ‘Rana Uncle’ to expedite the transaction. Transcripts of Milind Deora’s text messages are given in boxes with this story. In a message, Deora says “I really need to convey a time-frame for when the cheque will be given…. Am afraid delays in communicating the date to Delhi will give them the impression that Yes Bank is not serious”. Another message says, “Rana Uncle, PG will be sending you a letter stating that she’s agreed to sell the painting”. A yet another message says, “Rana uncle please let me know when I can collect the cheque.

Kapoor subsequently sent a cheque dated 3 July 2010 and received an acknowledgement letter from Priyanka Gandhi Vadra the next day reconfirming the amount and thanking him for the purchase. Her letter says, “Thank you for purchasing the portrait of my father, Shri Rajiv Gandhi painted by Shri MF Hussain which was presented to him in 1985 at the ceremony of Congress Party’s centenary celebrations and is present in my ownership and possession.” The letter also reads “I acknowledge receipt of a letter dated June 3, 2010, as well as your payment by cheque dated June 3, 2010, drawn on your HSBC account of 2 crore, representing full and final payment toward subject painting.”

Reportedly, the ED may use the painting to confront Rana Kapoor while investigating the proceeds of crime. The painting has been brought from Rana Kapoor’s residence to the ED office in Mumbai where Kapoor is being kept in custody. The painting was presented to Rajiv Gandhi in 1985 at the ceremony of Congress party’s centenary celebrations.

Sources said that under the anti-money laundering law, the money taken from Kapoor, an accused, which Priyanka spent on her cottage near Shimla, qualifies to be treated as “proceeds of crime” and this renders the property vulnerable to prospect of being attached by ED. Sources added that Deora was also likely to be quizzed in connection with the transaction which ED officials believe was inspired by more than Kapoor’s interest in the painting.

Bunty aur Babli jibe

Quick to react, the BJP fired its salvo at Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra dubbing her and her husband Robert Vadra as “Bunty aur Babli” of politics.  BJP spokesperson GVL Narasimha Rao noted that Priyanka’s husband Robert Vadra is already accused of using “shady methods to make windfall profits from dubious real estate transactions” and now the report of her receiving 2 crore from Kapoor for a painting which was not her own shows that the powerful couple have leveraged their political power to make “private gains”. “They offer deals to give patronage and protection to those involved in financial bungling and fraud. The Vadra couple can be labelled as the ‘Bunti aur Babli’ of the political class for their con operations and questionable methods,” Rao alleged.  Bunty Aur Babli was a Bollywood movie based on the life of a couple who conned people to make money.

However, Congress has denied there was anything wrong in Priyanka selling off M F Hussain’s portrait of Rajiv Gandhi to Kapoor. The party had said it was a legitimate transaction which Priyanka had disclosed in her income tax returns. Chief spokesperson of the party, Randeep Surjewala asked as to how does an MF Hussain painting of Rajiv Gandhi sold 10 years ago by Priyanka Gandhi to Yes Bank owner Rana Kapoor and disclosed in her tax returns, be termed as illegitimate transaction?