New Delhi: The Enforcement Directorate (ED) started the second round of questioning of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Monday in the alleged money laundering case linked to the National Herald.
The investigators in the federal agency questioned the 51-year-old leader for over three hours in the first round which started at its headquarters at 11 am. The first round of questioning concluded at around 2.15 pm for a lunch break. Congress leader returned to his residence followed by his visit to Sir Ganga Ram Hospital in the national capital where his mother and party interim president Sonia Gandhi is admitted due to COVID-related issues.
Rahul Gandhi’s questioning resumed after he rejoined the probe for the second round at around 3.45 pm.
Rahul Gandhi is being questioned by an Assistant Director level officer– the investigating officer of the case– being supervised by a Deputy Director and a Joint Director.
Another officer is learnt to be typing Gandhi’s statement which is being recorded under Section 50 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).
ED is questioning the Lok Sabha member from Wayanad in Kerala regarding alleged financial irregularities in the party-promoted Young Indian Pvt Limited (YIL) that owns the National Herald newspaper.
ED is likely to probe about the shareholding pattern, transfer of AJL assets to YIL and other related issues.
The ED is also investigating financial transactions as well as the role of party functionaries in the functioning of AJL and YIL.
National Herald is published by the Associated Journals Limited (AJL) and owned by YIL.
The ED will also question Rahul Gandhi’s mother and Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi in the matter. It recently issued fresh summons to her to appear before it on June 23 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 Subramanian Swamy in 2013.
Swamy had approached the court alleging that the assets of AJL were fraudulently acquired and transferred to YIL, in which Sonia Gandhi and her son owned 38 per cent shares each.
The YIL promoters include Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. Swamy had alleged that the Gandhis 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 in connection with its money laundering probe into the National Herald case.
The agency then recorded the statements of both the Congress leaders. While Kharge is the CEO of YIL, Bansal is the Managing Director of AJL.
Meanwhile, all roads leading to the ED office in central Delhi are still barricaded by the police amid heavy deployment of Rapid Action Force personnel.
The Delhi Police has imposed provisions under Section 144 CrPC to prohibit assembly and entry of people on roads leading to the ED headquarters in Pravaratan Bhawan on A P J Abdul Kalam Road.
Delhi Traffic Police had issued an advisory for residents of the national capital asking them to avoid certain roads in wake of the proposed march by the Congress party from its headquarters to the ED office where Rahul Gandhi is being questioned.