The Enforcement Directorate on Wednesday summoned Congress interim chief Sonia Gandhi and her son MP Rahul Gandhi for questioning in a money laundering case related to the National Herald, PTI reported.
The newspaper is published by Associated Journals Limited and owned by Young Indian Private Limited. It was founded and edited by Jawaharlal Nehru before he became India’s first prime minister.
In April 2008, the paper suspended operations as it had incurred a debt of over Rs 90 crore. Bharatiya Janata Party MP Subramanian Swamy has accused the Gandhis of setting up the Young Indian Private Limited firm to buy the debt using the funds of the Congress.
In a private complaint before a trial court, Swamy has accused the Gandhis and others of conspiring to cheat and misappropriate funds. He has alleged that the Young Indian firm paid only Rs 50 lakh to obtain the right to recover Rs 90.25 crore that the Associate Journals Limited owed to the Congress.
The party had loaned the amount to Associated Journals Limited on interest-free basis, according to court records.
The BJP leader has alleged that Young Indian Private Limited took over the assets of the newspaper in a “malicious” manner to make profits worth over Rs 2,000 crore.
The Enforcement Directorate has asked Sonia Gandhi to appear for questioning on June 8, according to PTI.
At a press conference on Wednesday, Congress MP Abhishek Manu Singhvi said that the party chief will comply with the summons and go to the agency’s office, reported The New Indian Express. He also rejected the allegations of money laundering.
“Rahul Gandhi will go if he is here or he may seek a fresh date,” Singhvi added.
Later, Gandhi wrote to to the Enforcement Directorate saying he will not be able to join the investigation on Thursday. He has sought more time to appear before the agency.
At the press conference, Singhvi claimed that the Enforcement Directorate had closed the case in 2015.
“But the government did not like it and it removed the ED officials concerned, brought in new officials and reopened the case,” he alleged. “This is to divert attention from inflation and other raging problems.”
The Enforcement Directorate wants to record the statements of Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi under criminal sections of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, unidentified officials told PTI.
The questioning, they said, is to understand the share holding pattern, financial transactions and role of the promoters of Young Indian and the Associate Journals Limited. In April, the federal agency had questioned Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge and the party’s Treasurer Pawan Bansal.
The Congress, however, said there was no money exchange and only conversion of debt into equity took place to pay off dues like salaries.
At Wednesday’s press conference, Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said the party will not bow down.
“Started the National Herald newspaper in 1942, and at that time, the British tried to suppress it,” Surjewala said. “Today, the Modi government is also doing the same and ED [Enforcement Directorate] is being used for this.”
“The case is more hollow than a pack of cards,” his colleague Singhvi said. “We will face it. We are not intimidated. This reeks of vendetta, pettiness and fear.”