Rahul Gandhi questioned for 54 hours, Sonia summoned on Thursday

Rahul Gandhi en route to ED office on Day 1 of questioning. Photo: PTI

New Delhi:Congress leader Rahul Gandhi was questioned by the Enforcement Directorate for over 11 hours on Tuesday, the fifth day of his deposition in the National Herald money laundering case.

The Congress MP from Wayanad (Kerala) spent a total of about 54 hours at the ED office over five sittings with the investigators questioning him over multiple sessions and recording his statement under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

He has not been issued fresh summons and it is understood that his questioning has ended, at least for now.

Gandhi, 52, took a half-hour break around 8 pm and re-joined the session that started in the morning at 11.30 am. He finally left the agency office at 11:30 PM.

He was questioned for three consecutive days last week, beginning June 13, and after Monday's questioning, he was asked to rejoin the session and complete the recording of his statement.

Gandhi left the agency office after midnight on Monday.

The probe relates to alleged financial irregularities in the Congress-promoted Young Indian Private Limited, which owns the National Herald newspaper.

The ED is understood to have asked Gandhi about the incorporation of Young Indian Private Limited, operations of the National Herald, the loan given by the party to the newspaper's publisher Associated Journals Limited (AJL), and the transfer of funds within the news media establishment.

Police detain Congress workers during a protest outside the AICC office against summoning of party leader Rahul Gandhi by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in connection with the National Herald case, in New Delhi, Wednesday, June 15, 2022. Photo: PTI/Kamal Singh

It is understood that Gandhi stuck to his position that there was no personal acquisition of assets by himself or his family as Young Indian was a "not-for-profit" company and that despite he being a majority shareholder, various financial decisions taken to revive the National Herald newspaper was taken collectively by senior Congress party leaders.

The ED, sources indicated, wanted to understand how the loan was extended to AJL by the Congress party and if the provisions of the Companies Act and the anti-money laundering law were contravened in this AJL-Congress-Young Indian deal.

Gandhi is understood to have faced a set of at least 20 questions during the five days of questioning.

The move to question Gandhi was initiated after the ED recently registered a fresh case under the criminal provisions of the PMLA after a trial court here took cognisance of an Income Tax department probe against Young Indian on the basis of a private criminal complaint filed by BJP MP Subramanian Swamy in 2013.

Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi are among the promoters and majority shareholders of 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 YI paying only Rs 50 lakh to obtain the right to recover Rs 90.25 crore that AJL owed to the Congress.

In February last year, the Delhi High Court issued a notice to the Gandhis for their response on Swamy's plea, seeking to lead evidence in the matter before the trial court.

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

Congress president Sonia Gandhi has also been summoned by the agency for questioning in the case on June 23.

She was discharged on Monday from a private hospital in Delhi where she was admitted for coronavirus-related complications. She has been advised rest at home.

The Congress has accused the Centre of targeting opposition leaders by misusing investigative agencies and has termed the entire action a "political vendetta".

Police detain Congress workers during a protest against party leader Rahul Gandhi's interrogation by the Enforcement Directorate in the National Herald case, outside the AICC headquarters, in New Delhi, Tuesday, June 21, 2022. (PTI Photo/Vijay Verma)

197 Congress workers detained for breaching sec 144: Delhi Police

Delhi Police on Tuesday detained 197 Congress party workers, including 18 MPs, for allegedly violating prohibitory orders against gathering of people, while taking out a march against the summoning of Rahul Gandhi by the Enforcement Directorate (ED), officials here said.

They also said that All India Mahila Congress president Netta D'Souza assaulted the police personnel on duty and spat on them for which she has been booked.

According to police, All India Congress Committee (AICC) had requested for permission to hold a Satyagraha' at the Jantar Mantar in central Delhi.

The programme was to be held against the Agnipath' scheme and the appearance of party leader Rahul Gandhi before the ED, they said.

A permission for dharna' was granted subject to the condition that only 1,000 party workers will be allowed at the protest site, police said.

But instead of holding the dharna' at Jantar Mantar, the protestors assembled at AICC headquarters at 24 Akbar Road and marched out in the form of a procession in violation of the prohibitory orders promulgated under section 144 CrPC in force, Special Commissioner of Police (Law and Order) Sagar Preet Hooda said.

Congress protest
New Delhi: Congress leaders KC Venugopal, Imran Pratapgarhi, Yashpal Arya and others raise slogans during a protest against party leader Rahul Gandhi's interrogation by the Enforcement Directorate in the National Herald case, in New Delhi. (PTI Photo)

A total of 197 Congress workers, including 18 members of parliament, were detained under section 65 DP Act to maintain public order in the area, he said.

While detaining the Congress workers, one of the protesters, Netta D'Souza, president of All India Mahila Congress, obstructed and assaulted the police personnel on duty and spat on them for which a criminal case is being registered under appropriate sections of law against her, Hooda said.

A video of the incident also circulated on social media in which D'Souza is seen spitting at security personnel while standing on the steps of a bus in which the party workers were being detained.

D'Souza in a tweet later said she was only spitting out hair and some dust that had gone into her mouth while she was being heckled by police during the tussle. She said she did not mean to disrespect security personnel.

In another incident, around 10 to 12 people gathered unannounced outside the residence of BJP President J P Nadda at Moti Lal Nehru Marg in the afternoon, police said.

They were shouting slogans against the Agnipath' scheme and were carrying a long stick with some inflammable material, they said.

The demonstrators put the material on fire and put it at the entrance gate of the house, Hooda said.

The security personnel promptly came out and put out the fire, he said, adding suitable legal action is being taken against these people.

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