ED resumes raid at Young Indian office; Kharge quizzed
Officials familiar with the process said the documents at YI office, which could not be reviewed during Monday’s raids, were examined on Wednesday.
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Thursday resumed its search at the office of Young Indian (YI) Pvt Ltd at Herald House, New Delhi, in the presence of Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge, in connection with money laundering allegations in the AJL-National Herald deal.
People familiar with the development said Kharge was also examined by the officers while going through the documents there.
Officials familiar with the process said the documents at YI office, which could not be reviewed during Monday’s raids, were examined on Wednesday. Kharge, the principal officer of YI, had been summoned by the agency to be present during the search.
Speaking in the Rajya Sabha before heading to Herald House, Kharge, who is the leader of Opposition in the Upper House, said: “I received ED summons, they called me at 12.30pm. I want to abide by law, but is it right for them to summon when Parliament is in session? Is it right for Police to gherao residences of Sonia Gandhi & Rahul Gandhi?.. won’t be scared, we’ll fight...”
Union minister Piyush Goyal, who is the leader of the House, maintained that the government does not interfere in functioning of law enforcement agencies.
Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh said Kharge was called by the probe agency when Parliament is in session.
“This is Modishahi reaching new lows,” he tweeted.
“Sonia Gandhi and Rahul should know they are not above law. The country is governed by the Constitution,” BJP spokesperson Gaurav Bhatia said.
The ED team was at the YI office for over 6 hours. The investigations carried out under Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) are largely dependent on documentary evidence as well as statements by witnesses and the suspects, which are admissible in the court of law.
A Kolkata based company had transferred ₹1 crore to YI when it was taking over Associated Journals Limited (AJL), a Congress-run company which published the National Herald newspaper, in 2010-11.
This company is being treated as a shell company by the ED and the money as “proceeds of crime”, according to one of the officers cited above.
ED has already questioned Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi in the case. While the Congress president was interrogated for almost 11 hours over three days late last month, Rahul, a member of Parliament from Wayanad, was at the ED office for 50 hours over five days in June.
The Gandhis are the majority stakeholders in YI.
AJL was founded in November 1937 by Jawaharlal Nehru and published the National Herald, Qaumi Awaz in Urdu and Navjeevan in Hindi. Income Tax proceedings, initiated in 2017, which are the basis of ED’s probe, revealed that YI purchased the ₹90.21 crore interest free loan given by AICC to AJL, by making a payment of only ₹50 lakh to the former.
Investigators said YI was founded in November 2010, just 23 days prior to assignment of the ₹90 crore loan, with a nominal capital of ₹5 Lakh. “Young Indian did not even have any funds of its own for purchase of the loan of ₹90 crore of the AICC,” an IT department document seen by HT stated.
The Congress has repeatedly said that the transaction was done to help save the newspaper and pay the salaries of journalists and staffers at a time when AJL faced huge debts. It argued that the decision helped revive the organisation and blames the Central government of raking up an old issue to target the Gandhi family over a political vendetta.
The Gandhis are learnt to have told the ED during their separate questioning sessions that no personal gains were made in the Congress-AJL-National Herald deal as YI was a not-for-profit company established under Section 25 of the Companies Act.
They also told ED that AJL continues to have possession of all its assets and YI neither “owns, nor controls” these properties.
The ED action in the case was initiated after the agency late last year registered a fresh case under the PMLA after a trial court here took cognisance of an Income Tax department probe against YI based on a private criminal complaint by former Bharatiya Janata Party MP Subramanian Swamy in 2013.