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ED records Sonia Gandhi’s statement in National Herald money laundering case


NEW DELHI: The Enforcement Directorate on Tuesday recorded Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s statement on the second day of questioning in a money laundering case linked to the National Herald newspaper, officials said.

Sonia Gandhi, who was questioned for 2.5 hours before lunch and rejoined after a break, had reached the ED office in central Delhi around 11 am accompanied by her Z+ armed security and her children Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.

While Priyanka Gandhi stayed back with her, Rahul Gandhi left soon after and joined the Congress protest at Vijay Chowk before being detained by the police.

The 75-year-old Congress president left the ED office around 2 pm and returned around 3.30 pm, officials said.

Priyanka Gandhi Vadra was in a separate room at the ED office so she could meet her mother to provide medicines or medical assistance if necessary, they said.

Sonia Gandhi’s questioning and recording of statements began around 11.15 am after initial formalities, including the verification of summons and signing the attendance sheet, were completed.

She was questioned for over two hours on July 21. She replied to 28 questions put forth by the agency.

The Lok Sabha MP from Rae Bareli is understood to have been asked questions pertaining to her involvement with the National Herald newspaper and the company under scanner in the case, Young Indian Pvt Ltd.

Tuesday’s questioning session could see the agency asking Sonia Gandhi questions on the functioning and running of the newspaper, the role of its various office bearers, and her and her son’s participation in the affairs of the National Herald and Young Indian.

The agency will also match her statement with that of Rahul Gandhi as both are majority stakeholders in Young Indian, officials said.

The questioning of the Gandhis pertains to the charge of alleged financial irregularities in the Congress-promoted Young Indian, which owns the National Herald newspaper.

The Congress has slammed the agency’s action against its top leadership and termed it “political vendetta”.

Delhi Police deployed a huge force, including CRPF and RAF personnel, and barricaded the entire over one kilometre stretch between her residence and the ED office. Traffic restrictions were also imposed in the area.

The ED questioned Rahul Gandhi last month in sessions that clocked over 50 hours over five days.

The move to question the Gandhis was initiated after the ED late last year registered a fresh case under criminal provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.

This was after a trial court here took cognisance of an Income Tax department probe against Young Indian based on a private criminal complaint by BJP MP Subramanian Swamy in 2013.

Sonia and Rahul Gandhi are among the promoters and majority shareholders in Young Indian. Like her son, the Congress president too has 38 per cent shareholding.

Swamy had accused the Gandhis and others of conspiring to cheat and misappropriate funds, with Young Indian paying only Rs 50 lakh to obtain the right to recover Rs 90.25 crore that Associate Journals Limited owed to the Congress.

In February last year, the Delhi High Court issued a notice to the Gandhis seeking their response to Swamy’s plea.

Congress leaders Mallikarjun Kharge and Pawan Bansal were questioned by the ED in the case in April.

The Congress has maintained there has been no wrongdoing and Young Indian is a “not-for-profit” company established under section 25 of the Companies Act and hence there can be no question of money laundering.

It is understood that Rahul Gandhi, during his deposition before the ED, stuck to the position that there was no personal acquisition of assets by himself or his family.

According to the ED, assets worth about Rs 800 crore are “owned” by the AJL and the agency wants to know from the Gandhis how a not-for-profit company like Young Indian was undertaking commercial activities of renting out its land and building assets. (PTI)

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