Sonia Gandhi reaches ED office for second round of questioning
Congress President Sonia Gandhi appeared before the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Tuesday for her second round of questioning in the money laundering case involving the National Herald newspaper. She reportedly reached the ED office accompanied by her son Rahul Gandhi and daughter Priyanka Gandhi Vadra to record her statement. The agency initially summoned her on Monday, but it was later postponed by one day.
Why does this story matter?
The high-profile case came to light in 2013 when BJP leader Subramanian Swamy filed a complaint before a trial court. He accused top Congress leaders of cheating and breach of trust in the acquisition of the newspaper's former publisher, Associated Journals Ltd. (AJL), by Young Indian (YI). The National Herald was a newspaper founded by Jawaharlal Nehru along with other freedom fighters in 1938.
Delhi Police beefs up deployment prior to Gandhi's questioning
Ahead of Gandhi's questioning, the Delhi Police boosted the deployment of forces near Delhi's Congress office. On Monday, Congress met to plan for staging protests over the ED's summons to Gandhi. Party leaders held demonstrations against her interrogation earlier and are reportedly protesting again on Tuesday. Meanwhile, the police denied Congress permission to demonstrate at the Raj Ghat and enforced CrPC Section 144 there.
Gandhi's first round of questioning held on July 21
The Congress held protests across the country on July 21 against the ED's first round of grilling of Gandhi in the money laundering case. The probe agency had questioned her for two hours. Priyanka Gandhi Vadra accompanied her to the ED office at the time too. To recall, her interrogation was postponed initially as she tested positive for COVID-19 and was hospitalized last month.
RaGa leads march by Congress MPs against party chief's questioning
After Gandhi's questioning began, Rahul Gandhi led a march by the party MPs reportedly from Parliament to Rashtrapati Bhavan to protest the alleged misuse of central investigative agencies by PM Narendra Modi's government to target opposition leaders. Several prominent Congress leaders, including Rahul, Mallikarjun Kharge, KC Venugopal, Ranjeet Ranjan, Manickam Tagore, and K Suresh, among others, were also detained by the police amid protests.
Congress MP gave adjournment motion notice in LS
Earlier, Congress MP Manickam Tagore filed a notice of adjournment in the Lok Sabha on July 21, requesting a debate on the alleged abuse of the ED and the "targeting" of "innocent" opposition politicians across party lines. In his notice to the Lok Sabha Secretary General, Tagore also requested a debate on a "list of scams" pending against the BJP government with the ED.
What do we know about the case?
The Gandhis are accused of fraud and theft of funds in the purchase of the newspaper. They are accused of obtaining National Herald assets by purchasing the former publishers of the newspaper through YI, in which they had an 86% share. Notably, the Ministry of Finance is also examining a tax evasion appeal in the case, which Congress claims was closed in 2015.
What did Swamy's complaint say?
Subramanian Swamy accused the Gandhis and others of misappropriating funds by paying merely Rs. 50L for the privilege to recover Rs. 90.25cr owed to Congress through AJL. It was claimed that YI, founded in November 2010 with a Rs. 50L capital, had acquired nearly all of AJL's shares in the National Herald. Congress alleged the Modi government was misusing the ED for "vendetta politics."
Kharge, Pawan Bansal also interrogated by ED
The Income Tax Department also began investigating the case earlier and issued a demand notice to YI for Rs. 249.15 crore for the fiscal year 2011-12. In April, the ED also interrogated senior Congress leader Kharge and Congress treasurer Pawan Bansal under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). While Kharge is the CEO of YI, Bansal is the managing director of AJL.