National Herald case: ED questions Sonia Gandhi for over three hours on day three

Congress president Sonia Gandhi leaves from her residence to appear before the Enforcement Directorate in New Delhi on July 27, 2022.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi leaves from her residence to appear before the Enforcement Directorate in New Delhi on July 27, 2022. | Photo Credit: PTI

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on July 27 questioned Congress president Sonia Gandhi for over three hours on the third day of her deposition in the National Herald newspaper-linked money laundering case. No fresh summons were issued, officials said.

Ms. Sonia Gandhi reached the federal agency’s office in central Delhi at 11 a.m. accompanied by her daughter Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and son Rahul Gandhi.

The session began around 11.15 a.m. The team of investigators included the main probe officer and a person who took down statements dictated by the Congress chief.

Explained | What is the National Herald case and why has the ED summoned Sonia and Rahul Gandhi?

Ms. Sonia Gandhi left the ED office around 2 p.m.

The 75-year old Ms. Gandhi was questioned for over eight hours in the last two appearance and faced about 65-70 questions, officials said.

She is understood to have faced a set of 30-40 more questions on July 27.

The questioning pertains to the charge of alleged financial irregularities in the Congress-promoted Young Indian Private Limited, which owns the National Herald newspaper.

The sessions are taking place with Covid-appropriate protocols in place and are being recorded in a audio-video mode, officials said.

The Congress has slammed the agency's action against its top leadership and termed it as "political vendetta" and "harassment".

The Delhi Police, like the last two times, deployed a huge force, including CRPF and RAF personnel, and barricaded the entire over one kilometre stretch between Ms. Gandhi's residence on Janpath-Akbar Road and the ED office. Traffic restrictions were also imposed in the area.

Mr. Rahul Gandhi has also been questioned by the ED in this case last month in sessions that clocked over 50 hours over five days.

Fresh criminal case

The move to question the Gandhis was initiated after the ED late last year registered a fresh case under the criminal provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act. This was after a trial court in New Delhi took cognisance of an Income Tax department probe against Young Indian based on a private criminal complaint by BJP MP Subramanian Swamy in 2013.

Ms. Sonia Gandhi and Mr. Rahul Gandhi are among the promoters and majority shareholders in Young Indian. Like her son, the Congress president too has 38% shareholding.

Mr. Swamy had accused the Gandhis and others of conspiring to cheat and misappropriate funds, with Young Indian paying only ₹50 lakh to obtain the right to recover ₹90.25 crore that Associate Journals Limited owed to the Congress.

In February last year, the Delhi High Court issued a notice to the Gandhis seeking their response on Mr. Swamy's plea. Congress leaders Mallikarjun Kharge and Pawan Bansal were questioned by the ED in the case in April.

The Congress has maintained there has been no wrongdoing and Young Indian is a "not-for-profit" company established under section 25 of the Companies Act and hence there can be no question of money laundering.

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It is understood that Mr. Rahul Gandhi, during his deposition before the ED, stuck to the position that there was no personal acquisition of assets by himself or his family.

According to the ED, assets worth about ₹800 crore are "owned" by the AJL and the agency wants to know from the Gandhis how a not-for-profit company like Young Indian was undertaking commercial activities of renting out its land and building assets.

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Printable version | Sep 9, 2022 9:26:13 am |