AJL moves appellate tribunal after ED attaches properties | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

AJL moves appellate tribunal after ED attaches properties

ByNeeraj Chauhan
Jul 10, 2024 06:10 AM IST

AJL challenges ED's attachment of properties worth over ₹751.9 crore, alleging a conspiracy to benefit Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. Case listed for arguments on August 1.

Associated Journals Limited (AJL) has challenged the Enforcement Directorate’s move to attach its properties and the subsequent confirmation of such attachment by an adjudicating authority under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), calling it arbitrary and mala fide, people familiar with the development said.

AJL moves appellate tribunal after ED attaches properties
AJL moves appellate tribunal after ED attaches properties

ED had, on November 20 last year, provisionally attached assets worth over 751.9 crore ( 661 crore immovable and shares worth 90 crore) of AJL and Young Indian (YI) alleging that a criminal conspiracy was hatched to give control of properties worth “hundreds of crores of rupees” of AJL to the “beneficial owners” of YI, Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi.

The attachment was confirmed by the adjudicating authority under PMLA on April 10 this year.

“The decision has been challenged by AJL and YI before the appellate tribunal for forfeited property (ATFP), New Delhi. The tribunal has listed the matter for arguments on August 1 and final hearing on August 12,” said a person cited above.

There was no immediate comment from the Congress on the matter.

ED, an officer said, has already filed its written reply to the AJL’s appeal detailing the evidence based on which the action was taken.

AJL and YI have countered the allegations saying PMLA proceedings are not maintainable, arbitrary and initiated in a mala fide. Both have contended that they have not committed any scheduled offence or the offence of money laundering and are not in the possession of any proceeds of crime.

As first reported by HT on January 6, ED has identified proceeds of crime in the case worth 988 crore. This includes real estate and other assets worth 755 crore, shares worth 90 crore, and rent of 142 crore earned since 2010-11. The rent was earned by AJL from its prime properties in Delhi, Mumbai, Indore, Panchkula, Lucknow and Patna since YI took over the company in Financial Year 2010-11, ED has claimed.

ED has alleged that AJL, which got land in various cities at concessional rates to run the National Herald, but closed the newspaper in 2008, relaunched its news operations around 2016 “just to show that it is still engaged in publishing of newspapers” after investigation was started into company’s affairs by various agencies.

The Congress has denied the charges and described the case as a “witch-hunt”.

Established in 1937 by Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru, AJL published the National Herald, Qaumi Awaz in Urdu and Navjeevan in Hindi. It was given land in various cities of India for the purpose of publishing newspapers. But it closed operations in 2008 and offered voluntary retirement to all employees, which was accepted by them; by then, the debt on its books had risen to 90 crore. It was taken over in 2010 by Young Indian (YI), a company in which Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi together hold 76%.

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