Accompanied by a battery of party leaders, Congress MP Rahul Gandhi on Monday appeared before the Enforcement Directorate here for questioning in a money laundering investigation related to the National Herald newspaper. Gandhi, who entered the headquarters of the federal probe agency in central Delhi around 11.10 am, is expected to write down his statement, officials said.
The former Congress president, who left for the ED office from the Congress headquarters in Akbar Road, was accompanied by party leaders, including Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel and former finance minister P Chidambaram.
Priyanka Gandhi sat on Rahul Gandhi's left side in his vehicle as the convoy of seven SUVs, escorted by armed CRPF personnel, entered the ED office on APJ Abdul Kalam Road.
Rahul Gandhi, 51, is a Z+ category protectee of the CRPF after the Union government withdrew the Gandhi family's SPG cover in 2019. The ED will record the statement of the Lok Sabha member from Wayanad in Kerala under criminal sections of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).
The probe pertains to alleged financial irregularities in the party-promoted Young Indian that owns the National Herald newspaper. National Herald is published by the Associated Journals Limited (AJL) and owned by Young Indian Pvt Limited.
Rahul Gandhi is expected to be grilled about the incorporation of Young Indian company, the operations of the National Herald and the funds transfer within the news media establishment.
"The Congress party will fight this oppression by the Modi government," Indian Youth Congress President Srinivas BV told PTI near the ED office. "We are not scared. The Modi government should be ashamed that they have turned central Delhi into a fortress just because our leader is going to the ED with his supporters," he said just before he was detained by the police.
The Congress party said in press conference in the morning that all funds' movement in this case were legitimate. The agency questioned senior Congress leaders Mallikarjun Kharge and Pawan Bansal in April as part of the investigation. The questioning of the senior Congress leaders and the Gandhis is part of the ED's investigation to understand the share holding pattern, financial transactions and role of the promoters of Young Indian and AJL, officials had said.
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 Pvt Ltd on the basis of a private criminal complaint filed by BJP MP Subramanian Swamy in 2013.
The Congress party had called the ED action "vendetta". It has termed the charges "fake and baseless" and added that the summonses to the Gandhis was part of the BJP's "vendetta politics". Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, are among the promoters and shareholders of Young Indian.
Swamy had accused Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and others of conspiring to cheat and misappropriate funds with Young Indian Pvt Ltd paying only ₹50 lakh to obtain the right to recover ₹90.25 crore that Associate Journals Ltd owed to the Congress.
The Delhi High Court in February last year issued a notice to the Gandhis for their response on Swamy's plea seeking to lead evidence in the matter before the trial court. The Gandhis had secured separate bails from the court in 2015 after they furnished personal bonds of ₹50,000 and one surety.
They, however, contended in the Delhi High Court that the plea by Swamy was "misconceived and premature". The other accused in this case filed by Swamy are close Gandhi aides Suman Dubey and technocrat Sam Pitroda. They have earlier denied any wrongdoing.