National Herald case: ED asks Sonia Gandhi to depose late July

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New Delhi: The Enforcement Directorate has asked Congress president Sonia Gandhi to record her statement with the agency sometime in late July after it accepted her plea to postpone her deposition in a money-laundering case linked to the National Herald newspaper, officials said on Thursday.

She was issued a second summons for June 23 by the agency but the 75-year-old Congress leader could not keep the date as she “has been strictly advised to rest at home following her hospitalisation on account of Covid and lung infection”.

Sources said the federal agency has postponed her questioning in the case for about four weeks and she has now been asked to depose sometime in the last week of July.

Gandhi was first issued the notice for an appearance on June 8 but after she reported positive for COVID-19, the summons for June 23 was issued.

The Congress president was on Monday discharged from a private Delhi hospital where she was admitted for coronavirus-related complications. She was admitted to the hospital on June 12, days after she tested positive for COVID-19 on June 2.

Her son and Congress MP Rahul Gandhi has been questioned by the agency in the same case for about 54 hours over 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 recently registered a fresh case under the criminal provisions of the PMLA after a trial court here took cognisance of an Income Tax department probe against Young Indian based on a private criminal complaint filed by BJP MP 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.

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 to Swamy’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 this case in April.

The Congress has accused the Centre of targeting opposition leaders by misusing investigative agencies and has termed the entire action a “political vendetta”.

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