National Herald case: ED asks Sonia to appear before it on July 21

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has asked Congress president Sonia Gandhi to depose before it on July 21 for questioning in the National Herald newspaper-linked money-laundering case, officials said on Monday.

Gandhi (75) was issued a second summons by the federal probe agency for June 23, but the Congress leader could not keep the date as she was “strictly advised to rest at home following her hospitalisation on account of COVID-19 and a lung infection”.

Gandhi had sought postponing of the June 23 summons by four weeks and hence, she has been asked to depose before the agency on July 21, the officials said.

The Congress president was first issued the notice for appearance on June 8, but after she tested positive for Covid, the summons for June 23 was issued.

Her son and Congress MP Rahul Gandhi has been questioned by the agency in connection with the case for over 50 hours in sessions spread across five days. The probe relates to alleged financial irregularities in the Congress-promoted Young Indian Private Limited, which owns the National Herald newspaper.

The move to question the Gandhis was initiated after the ED late last year lodged a fresh case under the criminal sections of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), following a trial court here taking cognisance of an income-tax department probe against Young Indian on the basis of a private criminal complaint filed by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy in 2013.

Sonia 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 in the company.

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 Associated Journals Limited (AJL) owed to the Congress.

In February last year, the Delhi High Court issued a notice to the Gandhis for their response on the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader’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 connection with the case in April.

The Congress has accused the Centre of targeting opposition leaders by misusing investigative agencies and attributed the entire action in the matter to “political vendetta”.

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