Congress chief Sonia Gandhi to reappear in front of ED in money-laundering case


Congress Party interim president Sonia Gandhi is likely to depose before the Enforcement Directorate (ED) Tuesday for her second round of questioning in the money laundering case linked to the National Herald newspaper.

The ED – India’s leading financial crimes investigation agency – on July 22 had issued fresh summons to Congress president to join the probe in the National Herald case on July 26.

Initially, she was summoned by the probe agency on Monday but it was deferred by a day. On July 21, the Enforcement Directorate had questioned the Congress chief and the questioning went on for nearly two hours.

Sonia Gandhi’s daughter and party leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra had accompanied her to the ED office. Sources in New Delhi said that Sonia Gandhi was asked over two dozen questions “after which she asked to go home for her medication”.

ED kept two doctors and an ambulance on standby as a humanitarian gesture on July 21, agency sources said. The central agency also allowed Sonia Gandhi’s daughter and party leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra at its office.

Congress leaders had protested in different parts of the country over ED summons to the party’s interim chief.

Seventy-five Congress MPs including Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge and several workers were detained by the Delhi Police for demonstrations against the questioning of the party chief.

Senior Congress leaders including P Chidambaram, Ajay Maken, Manickam Tagore, KC Venugopal, Adhir Ranjan Chaudhry, Shashi Tharoor, Sachin Pilot, Harish Rawat, Ashok Gehlot and K Suresh were among those detained.

All MPs and leaders of Congress who were detained at New Police Line, Kingsway Camp were later released.

The protest by the Congress turned violent in Bengaluru as the Youth Congress workers allegedly set a car on fire, in front of the ED office.

Congress workers also stopped a train and blocked railway tracks at New Delhi’s Shivaji Bridge railway station.
Chandigarh Police also used water cannons to disperse Congress workers and leaders as they protested over the questioning.

Last month the ED questioned Rahul Gandhi for five days in the case.

The ED had on June 1 summoned Sonia Gandhi to appear on June 8 in the case for the first time in connection with alleged money laundering in the National Herald case.
Sonia Gandhi could not appear for questioning after testing positive for COVID- 19.

The case to investigate alleged financial irregularities under the PMLA was registered about nine months ago after a trial court took cognisance of an Income Tax Department probe carried out on the basis of a private criminal complaint filed by former Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP Subramanian Swamy in 2013.

The petitioner had approached the court alleging that the assets of Associated Journals Limited (AJL), which published the National Herald newspaper, were fraudulently acquired and transferred to Young Indian Pvt Limited (YIL), in which Sonia Gandhi and her son owned 38 per cent shares each.

YIL promoters include Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. Swamy had alleged that the Gandhis cheated and misappropriated funds, with YIL paying only Rs 50 lakh to obtain the right to recover Rs 90.25 crore that AJL owed to Congress.

Congress argued that YIL is a not-for-profit company under Section 25 of the Companies Act, 1956 that can neither accumulate profits nor pay dividends to its shareholders.

Calling it a case of political vendetta, senior Supreme Court advocate and Congress leader Abhishek Singhvi had said,
“This is truly a very weird case – an alleged money laundering case on which summons are issued with no money involved.”

The federal agency’s move followed the questioning of senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge and Congress Treasurer Pawan Bansal in April this year in New Delhi.
The National Herald is published by AJL and owned by YIL.

Kharge is the CEO of YIL and Bansal is the Managing Director of AJL. The ED is probing shareholding pattern and financial transactions as well as the role of party functionaries in the functioning of AJL and YIL.