Sonia gets four weeks to depose before ED

Wednesday 29th June 2022 07:22 EDT

Accepting Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s request to postpone her questioning in the National Herald money-laundering case, the Enforcement Directorate has granted her four weeks to join the investigation. Sonia, who was supposed to depose before the agency last week wrote a letter to the ED the day before seeking more time on the grounds that doctors had advised her rest following her hospitalisation on account of Covid and lung infection.

Sources said Sonia would be asked to record her statement before the agency officials in the case related to £9 million given by the Congress party to Associated Journals Ltd (AJL), the publisher of the National Herald newspaper, in 2010-11. She was Congress president during 2010-11. Also, Sonia and her son Rahul Gandhi are the largest shareholders of Young Indian (YI), which took over AJL along with its assets estimated to be worth over £80 million. Rahul has been questioned in the case for more than 50 hours over five days in the past two weeks. The ED has also repeatedly questioned the present Congress treasurer Pawan Bansal and YI office bearer Malikarjun Kharge.
Sources said the ED’s investigations against YI and AJL began earlier this year based on a Delhi court taking cognizance of the charges levelled by BJP leader Subramaniam Swamy in 2013. The court, after ordering for trials of the Gandhis in 2015, had granted them bail. Several Congress leaders, including party spokesperson and senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi and former finance minister P Chidambaram have called the ED case “illegal”.

Rahul answered ‘I am too tired’

Rahul Gandhi said the ED officers who questioned him about the alleged money laundering in the National Herald case, were impressed with the patience with which he handled questions put to him. So much so that they asked him about the secret of his stamina.
ED sources, however, have disputed the version. “The fact is that he avoided replies to almost 20% of the questions put to him by saying that he was feeling too tired”, said sources in the agency when asked about Rahul’s claim.

The former party chief’s assertion ties into the narrative that Congress has tried to create over his questioning by ED, projecting it as case of harassment and his boldness in standing up to it. Party workers have staged protests on all the five days Rahul appeared at ED headquarters, beginning June 13. He said his training as a Congress worker and in Vipasana helped him calmly deal with the questioning.
However, sources in the ED, whose summons to Rahul and his mother Sonia have been seen as the agency’s determination to apply rules irrespective of the stature of the accused and others considered crucial for investigation, as well as defiance of Congress’s high voltage protests, have a different story to tell. They also questioned the account of Rahul being kept at the agency’s headquarters for long on five days.

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