London/New Delhi: Alleged arms middleman Sanjay Bhandari, supposed to be on the run, was discovered in London by CNN-News18, triggering renewed efforts by the Indian government to bring him to book.
CNN-News18's Sanjay Suri, who spotted Bhandari outside the Grosvenor Hill Court, 15, Bourdon Street, Mayfair area of London on Friday, was manhandled by the arms dealer's aides and nephew when he tried to ask questions.
Bhandari's escape to London is seen as a major lapse as he is wanted by the Delhi Police for possessing "classified" documents related to the Defence Ministry and by the investigation wing of the Income Tax Department for holding unexplained wealth in India and abroad. Investigating agencies believe he sneaked into Nepal before flying out to London.
Sources in the agencies said Bhandari has hired lawyers in London to help him with political asylum in the United Kingdom. A clutch of chartered accountants and lawyers are working to safeguard his assets from being attached under the newly enacted black money law.
The Central Bureau of Investigation has now forwarded a Delhi Police request to Interpol to obtain a global arrest warrant or a Red Corner Notice (RCN) against him. Bhandari, at present, is being investigated by three premier probe agencies of the country, including the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the Delhi Police's crime branch.
He has been booked by the Income Tax department under the new and stringent Anti-black Money Act and the government is mulling attaching his foreign and domestic assets as part of a tax evasion probe against him.
Under the new anti-black money law, cases of overseas illegal assets, which till recently were probed under the Income Tax Act, 1961, attract a steep 120 per cent tax and penalty on undisclosed foreign assets and income, besides carrying a jail term of up to 10 years.
The case came to light after the I-T department conducted searches in April last year in Delhi and recovered "sensitive" official defence documents from his premises.
Bhandari is accused of being a middleman in many arms deals, including the Pilatus deal. According to I-T sources, Bhandari owns three houses in London and at least three more in Dubai. Five bank accounts in Dubai, with transactions of more than Rs 200 crore, have been allegedly traced to him.