Congress leader Rahul Gandhi was questioned by the Enforcement Directorate for over 11 hours on Tuesday, the fifth day of his deposition in the National Herald money laundering case.
The Congress MP from Wayanad (Kerala) spent a total of about 54 hours at the ED office over five sittings with the investigators questioning him over multiple sessions and recording his statement under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). He has not been issued fresh summons and it is understood that his questioning has ended, at least for now.
Gandhi, 52, took a half-hour break around 8 pm and re-joined the session that started in the morning at 11.30 am. He finally left the agency office at 11:30 PM. He was questioned for three consecutive days last week, beginning June 13, and after Monday's questioning, he was asked to rejoin the session and complete the recording of his statement.
Gandhi left the agency office after midnight on Monday. The probe relates to alleged financial irregularities in the Congress-promoted Young Indian Private Limited, which owns the National Herald newspaper.
The ED is understood to have asked Gandhi about the incorporation of Young Indian Private Limited, operations of the National Herald, the loan given by the party to the newspaper's publisher Associated Journals Limited (AJL), and the transfer of funds within the news media establishment.
It is understood that Gandhi stuck to his position that there was no personal acquisition of assets by himself or his family as Young Indian was a "not-for-profit" company and that despite he being a majority shareholder, various financial decisions taken to revive the National Herald newspaper was taken collectively by senior Congress party leaders.
The ED, sources indicated, wanted to understand how the loan was extended to AJL by the Congress party and if the provisions of the Companies Act and the anti-money laundering law were contravened in this AJL-Congress-Young Indian deal. Gandhi is understood to have faced a set of at least 20 questions during the five days of questioning.
The move to question Gandhi 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 on the basis of a private criminal complaint filed by BJP MP Subramanian Swamy in 2013. Sonia Gandhi 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 YI paying only Rs 50 lakh to obtain the right to recover Rs 90.25 crore that AJL owed to the Congress. In February last year, the Delhi High Court issued a notice to the Gandhis for their response on 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. Congress president Sonia Gandhi has also been summoned by the agency for questioning in the case on June 23. Congress president
She was discharged on Monday from a private hospital in Delhi where she was admitted for coronavirus-related complications. She has been advised rest at home. The Congress has accused the Centre of targeting opposition leaders by misusing investigative agencies and has termed the entire action a "political vendetta".(With PTI inputs)