Monday’s session began at 11am with the Congress leader being asked about transactions related to acquisition of Associated Journals Ltd, publisher of National Herald and other Congress publications, by Young Indian for Rs 50 lakh. The latter is a private company controlled by Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her two children.
There was an hour-long lunch break during which Rahul visited Sonia, who is undergoing treatment for Covid-related complications at Ganga Ram Hospital. The second session resumed at 3.30pm and went on past 10pm.
Even as Rahul was being questioned, action unfolded outside with Congress alleging police high-handedness in dealing with protesting partymen. Former Union minister P Chidambaram and party MP Pramod Tiwari said they suffered rib injuries, while Congress claimed AICC general secretary organisation KC Venugopal was bodily lifted and removed from the site of protest and MP Shakti Sinh Gohil was cane-charged for defying Delhi Police’s prohibitory orders.
The BJP hit back, with Union ministers Smriti Irani and Dharmendra Pradhan alleging that the protests were a “stunt” to distract from the Congress leaders’ corruption.
According to sources, Rahul’s questioning was videographed and at the end of the session he was made to sign his written statements. Rahul and the Congress have claimed no wrongdoing behind the AJL deal as the Young Indian was a non-profit company and the acquisition of AJL was meant to save it.
Earlier, in the morning, Rahul led a procession of Congress leaders from the party office at Akbar Road here towards the ED headquarters on Dr APJ Abdul Kalam Road, a five-minute drive from the Congress Hqs. After walking some distance, Rahul boarded a vehicle to reach the swanky new building of the anti-money laundering agency.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi has been summoned on June 23 in the same case after she reported ill on June 8 and had sought fresh dates. The agency is probing the irregularities behind the acquisition of AJL which owns properties across major cities in India valued at over Rs 800 crore, according to the ED’s estimation.
The Young Indian was launched as a section 25 non-profit company by Congress president Sonia Gandhi with some close friends in November 2010.
Senior ED officials dismissed Congress’s allegation of political vendetta by saying that investigation into the National Herald case was launched under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) earlier this year after a court took cognisance of an income tax (I-T) probe report that held that the functionaries of Young Indian had indulged in hawala dealings (illegal cash transactions) to acquire AJL. They also said that the irregularities first came to light when Congress-led UPA was in office and Congress held the charge of the finance ministry.
The I-T report had also accused the YI of taking over the 99.99% shareholding of the AJL with the purpose of acquiring all its assets, which, according to the I-T assessment report for 2011-12, was estimated worth Rs 414 crore at that time.
“The objective of the scheme was two-fold, one to obtain valuable benefits embodied in business assets of the AJL and not to pay any tax on business income of earning such benefit”, I-T department then held.
The ED had earlier questioned senior party functionaries Mallikarjun Kharge, also the leader of opposition in the Rajya Sabha, and Pawan Bansal, the present treasurer of the party, in April. The two senior leaders are also office bearers in the Young Indian and the AJL.
The BJP on Monday raised the issue of the Young Indian (YI) receiving ‘loans’ of Rs 1 crore from a Dotex Merchandise Pvt Ltd, a Kolkata-based shell company.
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