Sonia Gandhi appears before ED for 2nd round of questioning in National Herald case: Key points

NEW DELHI: Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Tuesday appeared before the Enforcement Directorate (ED) for her second round of questioning in the money laundering case linked to the National Herald newspaper.
On July 21, the preobe agency had questioned the Congress chief for around two hours. Sonia Gandhi’s daughter and party leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra had accompanied her to the ED office. According to sources, Sonia Gandhi was asked over two dozen questions “after which she asked to go home for her medication”.
Here’s the latest developments:
Priyanka accompanies Sonia to ED office
Sonia Gandhi, who was diagnosed with Covid recently, was accompanied by her daughter and Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra to the office of the probe agency.
Vadra has accompanied her mother last week and was allowed to stay in the ‘Pravartan Bhawan’ headquarters of the agency, away from the questioning room, so that in case of a health issue she can be with her mother and provide her medicines.
Day 1 quizzing – Sonia asked 28 points on AJL takeover
Sonia Gandhi was on July 21 questioned on 28 points related to takeover of Associated Journals Ltd (AJL), the publishers of National Herald and other Congress organs, along with its properties by Young Indian, a company in which Sonia and her son Rahul hold majority stake. Sonia and Rahul have been on bail since 2015 when a Delhi court took cognisance of offences against them under Sections 420 and 120B of the IPC, the basis of ED’s case under the PMLA.
Doctors, ambulance were on standby on July 21
The Enforcement Directorate had kept two doctors and an ambulance on standby as a humanitarian gesture on July 21, agency sources said. The central agency also allowed Sonia Gandhi’s daughter and party leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra at its office.
Protest over ED summons to Sonia; 75 Cong MPs detained
Congress leaders had protested in different parts of the country over ED summons to the party’s interim chief. Seventy-five Congress MPs including leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge and several workers were detained by the Delhi Police for demonstrations against the questioning of the party chief.
Senior Congress leaders including P Chidambaram, Ajay Maken, Manickam Tagore, KC Venugopal, Adhir Ranjan Chaudhry, Shashi Tharoor, Sachin Pilot, and Harish Rawat. Ashok Gehlot, K Suresh were among those detained.
The protest by the Congress turned violent in Bengaluru as the Youth Congress workers allegedly set a car on fire, in front of the ED office. Congress workers also stopped a train and blocked railway tracks at New Delhi’s Shivaji Bridge railway station.
Chandigarh Police also used water cannons to disperse Congress workers and leaders as they protested over the questioning.
Sonia’s session with ED deferred twice
The ED had on June 1 summoned Sonia Gandhi to appear before its investigators on June 8 in the case for the first time in connection with a money laundering case involving the National Herald.
The agency had issued similar summons to Sonia Gandhi investigators on June 8 and then on June 21.
Sonia Gandhi could not appear for questioning after testing positive and being hospitalised for Covid-19. The Congress leader had developed a mild fever on June 1 evening and was found Covid-19 positive upon testing the next morning. After her discharge from hospital, she had asked for more time to appear before the agency.
The ED wants to record Sonia Gandhi’s statements under criminal sections of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).
Rahul Gandhi questioned for over 5 days
Congress leader and Sonia Gandhi’s son Rahul Gandhi was quizzed at the ED office in the National Herald case for more than 50 hours spread over five days.
During Rahul’s questioning, the ED had sought details of the transactions and verifiable documents to prove Congress’s claim that it had paid Rs 90 crore to the Associated Journals Ltd (AJL), the publisher of National Herald to meet its expenses and fulfil obligations to its employees.
In 2010, the Gandhis launched Young Indian which took control of AJL by taking over the entire debt of Rs 90 crore owed by AJL. However, investigations later revealed that the YI paid only Rs 50 lakh in lieu of Rs 90 crore and yet the Congress agreed to transfer the entire shareholding of the company to Young Indian and settle the entire account.
Sharing details of his questioning, Rahul said: “I was made to sit in a small dark room. There were three ED officers questioning me. They would leave the room to take instructions but I sat on the chair for long hours and responded patiently to all their queries.”
View ED interrogation as medal: Rahul Gandhi
Taking a dig at the Centre, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said earlier this month that he views his interrogation by Enforcement Directorate (ED) in the National Herald case “like a medal”.
Addressing a public rally at Wandoor in Kerala’s Malappuram, Rahul said he was not worried and accused the BJP-led government of using probe agencies against its political rivals.
“After I left, I was wondering why they only interrogated me for five days, why not 10 days. I thought maybe I’m not opposing them strongly enough…it is quite clear that anybody who opposes the BJP faces ED. I view my five days of interrogation like a medal, and I am hoping that they do it again 3,4,5,6,10 times,” the Congress leader said.
The National Herald 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 in 2013.
The petitioner had approached the court alleging that the assets of Associated Journals Limited (AJL), which published the National Herald newspaper, were fraudulently acquired and transferred to Young Indian Pvt Limited (YIL), in which Sonia Gandhi and her son owned 38 per cent shares each.
The YIL promoters include Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. Swamy had alleged that the Gandhis cheated and misappropriated funds, with YIL paying only Rs 50 lakh to obtain the right to recover Rs 90.25 crore that AJL owed to the 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.

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