The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Wednesday 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. She was given no fresh summons amid indications that her questioning has concluded.
With Wednesday’s questioning, Gandhi has been questioned for more than 11 hours over three days and faced around 100 questions, officials said.
Her first round of questioning took place on July 21.
Gandhi reached the federal agency’s office in central Delhi at 11 am accompanied by her daughter Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and son Rahul Gandhi.
The session began around 11.15 am. The team of investigators included the main probe officer and a person who took down statements dictated by the Congress chief. Sonia Gandhi left the ED office around 2 pm along with Vadra, who stayed with her at the ‘Pravartan Bhawan’ (ED headquarters) in order to provide any assistance or medical care to her mother.
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 Congress chief is understood to have stuck to the party’s position that no personal assets were made in the Associate Journals Limited (AJL)-Young Indian deal and that the routine affairs were handled by other office bearers, including late Moti Lal Vora.
Congress leaders Pawan Bansal and Mallikarjun Kharge have been questioned by the ED in the past.
The sessions took place with Covid-appropriate protocols in place and are being recorded in a audio-video mode, the 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 over one kilometre stretch between Gandhi’s residence on Janpath and the ED office. Traffic restrictions were also imposed in the area.
Rahul Gandhi was also questioned by the ED in this case last month in sessions that clocked over 50 hours over five days.
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 here took cognisance of an income tax department probe against Young Indian based on a private criminal complaint by BJP MP Subramanian Swamy in 2013.
Sonia and Rahul Gandhi are among the promoters and majority shareholders in Young Indian. Like her son, the Congress president too has 38 per cent shareholding.
Swamy had accused the Gandhis and others of conspiring to cheat and misappropriate funds, with Young Indian paying only Rs 50 lakh to obtain the right to recover Rs 90.25 crore that AJL owed to the Congress.
In February last year, the Delhi High Court issued a notice to the Gandhis seeking their response on Swamy’s plea.
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.
It is understood that 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 Rs 800 crore are “owned” by the AJL and the federal 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. PTI NES KVK KVK
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