ED questions Sonia Gandhi for over six hours, asked to appear again tomorrow

Congress MPs Rahul Gandhi, Mallikarjun Kharge, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury and others conduct a protest march against ED's questioning of party's interim President Sonia Gandhi in the National Herald case, at Parliament House in New Delhi, Tuesday, July 26, 2022. PHOTO: PTI

New Delhi: New Delhi: The Enforcement Directorate on Tuesday questioned Congress President Sonia Gandhi for over six hours on the second day of her appearance in a money laundering case linked to the National Herald newspaper, officials said.

Officials said she has been asked to appear again on Wednesday.

She left the agency's office in central Delhi just before 7 pm on Tuesday after recording her statement.

The Congress leader had reached the ED office around 11 am with her Z+ armed security cover, and accompanied by her children Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.

While Priyanka Gandhi stayed back at the ED office, Rahul Gandhi left soon after.

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

The Congress president once left the ED office around 2 pm and returned around 3.30 pm in what is understood to be a lunch break.

The questioning and recording of statements of the 75-year-old Congress president began at 11.15 am after initial formalities, including the verification of summons and signing the attendance sheet.

She was questioned for over two hours on July 21 when 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.

Officials have said all Covid-appropriate protocols were in place for the high-profile session like stationing of doctors and an ambulance, 'Covid negative' certificates of investigators and proper physical distancing between Gandhi and the team of investigators.

The Congress has slammed the agency's action against its top leadership and termed it as "political vendetta".

Congress President Sonia Gandhi with party General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra leaves from her residence ahead of appearing before the Enforcement Directorate in connection with the National Herald case, in New Delhi, Thursday, July 21, 2022. (PTI Photo)

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

Rahul Gandhi has also been questioned by the ED in this case 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 the 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 on 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.  

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