New Delhi [India]: Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi on Thursday appeared before Enforcement Directorate (ED) in connection with the National Herald case.
Sonia Gandhi accompanied by her daughter Priyanka Gandhi Vadra reached the ED office in the national capital.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi also arrived at the ED office. Several Congress leaders were detained as the party put a show of strength by staging nationwide demonstrations in support of the party chief.
Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge on protest said that they raising the issue of misuse of central probe agencies by the Centre.
“They (ruling party) want to show how powerful they are. We’ve raised the issue of inflation in Parliament but they’re not ready for discussion. We are now raising the issue of misuse of central probe agencies,” Kharge.
Congress MP Deepender S Hooda said that they are protesting peacefully.
“We are protesting peacefully. They cannot suppress our voice,” said Hooda.
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, who is also in Delhi slammed the probe and said that since Sonia Gandhi is over 70 years old, ED should have gone to her house for investigation.
“The kind of personality and aura she (Sonia Gandhi) has and since she is more than 70 years old, ED should have gone to her house for investigation. I want to meet the chief of ED and CBI and tell them what people are thinking about central agencies,” said Gehlot.
Karnataka Congress president DK Shivakumar said that there was no need to summon Sonia Gandhi.
“They are only harassing her. This is political vendetta. BJP is afraid of her. They want to mentally harass Congress leaders,” he said.
“The way ED is treating Sonia Gandhi, they’re trying to defame her. Govt is misusing central agencies against Congress,” said Maharashtra Congress chief Nana Patole.
Meanwhile, in a joint statement Opposition parties, criticised the Central government for unleashing a “relentless vendetta against political opponents” through misuse of investigative agencies by targeting prominent leaders of various parties.
“The Modi Sarkar has unleashed a relentless campaign of vendetta against its political opponents and critics through the mischievous misuse of investigative agencies. Prominent leaders of a number of political parties have been deliberately targeted and subjected to harassment in an unprecedented manner,” the statement reads.
The ED had on June 1 summoned Sonia Gandhi to appear before its investigators on June 8 in the case for the first time in connection with a money laundering case involving the National Herald.
The agency had issued similar summons to Sonia Gandhi investigators on June 8 and then on June 21.
Sonia Gandhi could not appear for questioning after testing positive and being hospitalised for Covid-19. The Congress leader had developed a mild fever on June 1 evening and was found COVID-19 positive upon testing the next morning. After her discharge from hospital, she had asked for more time to appear before the agency.
The ED wants to record both Sonia Gandhi’s statements under criminal sections of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).
Last month the ED had questioned Rahul Gandhi on several occasions in the case.
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 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.
The YIL promoters include Congress President 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 was 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 in connection with its money laundering probe into the National Herald case.
The agency then recorded the statements of both the Congress leaders then under the PMLA. The National Herald is published by AJL and owned by YIL.
While Kharge is the CEO of YIL, Bansal is the Managing Director of AJL.
The ED is currently investigating the shareholding pattern and financial transactions as well as the role of party functionaries in the functioning of AJL and YIL.