The ED summons Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi in the money-laundering probe linked to them over a decade-old National Herald case. But what actually is the National Herald case? Let’s find out.
ED action against Sonia and Rahul
Rahul Gandhi is being questioned by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in connection with corruption allegations in the National Herald case.
The grand old party has criticized the ED action against Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. Also, several Congress leaders were also detained ahead of their march in Delhi and near the party headquarters as they raised slogans against the Modi government.
What is the National Herald case?
The case against the Gandhis was brought in 2012 by Subramanian Swamy, who blamed them for misusing party funds to buy a firm that published the National Herald newspaper.
Swamy, who is a Bharatiya Janata Party leader, filed a private complaint in a court in Delhi on November 1, 2012, stating that Sonia and Rahul Gandhi had executed fraud and land grabbing worth thousands of crores.
The former member of Rajya Sabha had alleged in his complaint that the Gandhis had “fraudulently acquired properties of Associated Journals Ltd (AJL) in Delhi, UP and other places worth Rs 1,600 crore” through the private company they owned – Young Indian.
Founded in 1937, AJL published the National Herald newspaper, which was started in 1938 by Jawaharlal Nehru. Along with National Herald, the company also printed two other dailies – the Qaumi Awaz in Urdu and Navjeevan in Hindi.
As AJL was founded by Nehru, it was never his personal property and was an unregistered public company with 5,000 freedom fighters as its shareholders. Apart from Nehru, AJL’s Memorandum of Association was signed by stalwarts such as Purushottam Das Tandon, Acharya Narendra Dev, Kailash Nath Katju, Rafi Ahmad Kidwai, Krishna Dutt Paliwal, and Govind Ballabh Pant.
AJL’s real estate worth is evaluated to be at Rs 5,000 crores. It has properties in New Delhi, Lucknow, Bhopal, Mumbai, Indore, Patna, and Panchkula, including the Herald House in New Delhi – a six-story building with around 10,000 sq-meter office space.
The Publication stopped operating in 2008 as it reportedly owed the Congress a debt of Rs 90 crore. This was the money that the party had loaned AJL on an interest-free basis from time to time. The debt is considered an asset to the Congress party. In December 2010, this debt and almost the entire stake were acquired by the Young Indian for Rs 50 lakh.
Things you need to know about the case:
1. Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi have appeared in front of ED several times. There are allegations that both have illegally acquired property worth Rs 5,000 crore belonging to the National Herald newspaper.
2. BJP leader Subramanian Swamy filed the case in a local court in 2012. The trial court had issued summons to the two leaders among others since June 2014.
3. The Associated Journals Limited, which published the National Herald, and its assets and liabilities were acquired by a company named Young Indian in which the Congress president and her son hold more than three-fourths of equity.
4. The 82-year-old alleges that the real reason for the transaction was to acquire real estate worth Rs 5000 Crore by the two Congress leaders and their associates.
5. Monts later, the Young Indian board of directors passed a resolution to ‘own’ National Herald’s outstanding debt. Mr. Swamy alleges that debt – largely, the loan taken from the Congress Party – was made possible because the directors of Young Indian are top Congress leaders.
6. Congress says it gave the loan because the party’s objectives matched National Herald’s. BJP leaders say Congress enjoys income tax exemption under the law for being a political party and cannot shift its funds to a commercial entity.
7. Mr. Swamy’s petition alleges that for an extra Rs 50 Lakh Young Indian bought the entire share equity of Associated Journals. Congress however denied the allegations.
8. Mr. Swamy alleges Young Indian has acquired the complete ownership of Associated Journals’ real estate – buildings in New Delhi, Lucknow, Bhopal, Indore, Mumbai, Panchkula, Patna, and other places – worth at least Rs 5000 crore by paying Rs 50 lakh. Instead, some assets should have been liquidated to pay off the debt, the BJP leader contends.