As news reports about his having enjoyed the hospitality of the Essar group during a trip to Europe triggered a row, Union minister Nitin Gadkari on Friday said he had visited a yacht belonging to them “just to see” it and asserted he never took money from any corporate entity.
“I want to see new things and when Essar people invited me to see their yacht in the sea, I accepted their invitation. I would have gone to see it even if they had placed a ticket of Rs. 500 for admission,” said Gadkari.
Gadkari, who had to step down as BJP president after a controversy erupted over his alleged stakes in shell companies in January 2013, said he held no public office at the time of his visit to the yacht anchored off a seaside village on the French Riviera in July that year.
“I was not holding any public office … I was not an MP or MLA,” he said.
Gadkari, Union minister of transport and national highways, said it was during his trip to Norway when the visit to the luxury yacht ‘Sunrays’ materialized.
“I bought tickets from Frankfurt from our own money. Boarding, lodging, everything for the private family visit was taken care of from the family account. I have never taken money from any corporate (entity). I have done nothing wrong. I am always eager to see new things. I could have even paid for ticket had the Ruias issued tickets for boarding the yacht but then it was their private property,” he said.
Asked by a reporter if he and his family members did not take a ride on the corporate group’s helicopter from Nice to the yacht, the Union minister said, “There was no other option. The chopper belonged to the Ruias and there was no road on the sea that could have taken me there (the yacht).”