New Delhi: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi appeared before the ED on Wednesday for the third straight day of questioning in the National Herald money laundering case, with the agency seeking answers over decisions made at the regard to the media organization and its owner Young Indian. Gandhi (51) arrived at ED headquarters on APJ Abdul Kalam Road in central Delhi at around 11:35 a.m. with his “Z+” category CRPF security escort.
He was accompanied by his sister and Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra as his convoy sped past police barricades crowded with journalists and party supporters. The interrogation began at 12 noon. He was grilled for about three hours, after which he left for an hour’s break, possibly for lunch. He joined the probe around 4 p.m.
A huge contingent of police and paramilitaries has been deployed around the office of the federal agency, and restraining orders under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) are in effect. Priyanka Gandhi left shortly after dropping off her brother at the Law Enforcement (ED) Directorate Pravartan Bhawan office on Vidyut Lane which borders APJ Abdul Kalam Road.
A number of protesting Congress leaders and supporters were detained by police and herded into DTC and Delhi Police buses at several locations between the ED office and the party headquarters at 24 Akbar Road . Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel told reporters outside the Congress headquarters that the government was “killing democracy” because party workers and office bearers were not allowed to enter the premises of the Congress. AICC by the police.
Rahul Gandhi clocked over 24 hours in multiple question and answer sessions over the past two days at the ED office. He left at 11:30 p.m. Tuesday after being interrogated for more than 11 hours on the second day. Officials said Gandhi’s interrogation could not be completed on Tuesday, and therefore he was asked to continue recording his statement on Wednesday. About 15 to 16 questions about the formation of the Young Indian Society, the operations of the National Herald newspaper, the loan granted by Congress to the Associated Journals Limited (AJL) and the transfer of funds within the media establishment have were asked of Gandhi. during the interrogation held so far, sources said.
They said Gandhi’s role and detailed statement in the case was vital as he is a “major shareholder” of Young Indian (YI) and an “important person” in the affairs of the AJL and the National Herald. It is understood that the agency asked him about the assets held by AJL. With the agency tying up a building worth over Rs 16 crore in Mumbai in 2020, proceedings in the case have become criminal compared to civil proceedings conducted under the Income Tax Act. Gandhi was also reportedly asked about a loan of Rs 1 crore taken out by YI from a Kolkata-based company in February 2011 and the rationale behind it.
The questions posed to Gandhi, the sources said, start from the year 2011 when YI was incorporated. It was also learned that the questions related to changes in the company’s shareholding scheme subsequently, the procedures followed and the salaries and VRS granted to journalists working in the organization, among other issues. Congress has denied any wrongdoing in the matter, saying YI is a nonprofit corporation established under Section 25 of the Corporations Act.
The party said the AJL, which was established in 1937, was facing huge debts and Congress, from 2002 to 2011, gave Rs 90 crore to the National Herald newspaper, of which Rs 66 crore went to been used to pay journalists’ salaries/VRS. and the employees who worked there. The rest of the money was handed over to the government as a pending rental amount for assets held by AJL, its electricity and construction expenses and council tax, the spokesman said. Congress, Randeep Surjewala.
Congress leaders Mallikarjun Kharge and Pawan Bansal were questioned in the case recently, and Kharge said he provided “evidence” to the agency during his interrogation. The investigation relates to alleged financial irregularities in the Congress-promoted Young Indian Private Limited, owner of the National Herald newspaper. The newspaper is published by AJL and is owned by Young Indian Private Limited. Rahul Gandhi’s mother and Congresswoman Sonia Gandhi, who is currently admitted to a hospital here due to Covid-related issues, was also summoned by the agency for questioning in the case on June 23. The ED recently registered a new case under the criminal liability provisions of the PMLA after a Magistrate Court heard of an investigation by the Department of Income Tax against Young Indian based on a private criminal complaint filed by BJP MP Subramanian Swamy in 2013.
Sonia and Rahul Gandhi are among the promoters and shareholders of Young Indian. Swamy had accused Sonia and Rahul Gandhi and others of conspiring to cheat and embezzle funds, with YI only paying Rs 50 lakh for the right to recover Rs 90.25 crore which the AJL owed Congress.