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Rahul Gandhi Gets a Day Off As ED Questioning Ends on Day 3; Summoned Again on Friday

After three days of intense grilling clocking close to 30 hours, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi will be back at the office of the Enforcement Directorate on Friday after he was summoned for the fourth time in the National Herald money laundering case. After Rahul put in a request, the central probe agency allowed to give him a day off from questioning on Thursday.

On Wednesday, too, the MP’s question-and-answer session lasted for over eight hours and he left the office at 9.30 pm. His statement was recorded in multiple sessions under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act. The 51-year-old leader was once again accompanied by his sister and Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra when he arrived at the ED headquarters in central Delhi around 11.35 am.

Even as he was being questioned, Congress leaders and supporters continued with their vociferous protests amid which senior Rajasthan leader Sachin Pilot was also detained as he tried entering the AICC office. Despite no permission from police and prohibitory orders, protesters clashed with police across heavy barricading at the Congress headquarters.

Delhi Police, however, denied allegations of forcibly entering the party office and beating up functionaries. But, Congress leaders called out the ruling BJP for continuing its “vendetta politics” and conspiracy to falsely implicate as well as defame the Gandhi family.

Heavy security was deployed with a massive contingent of police and paramilitary personnel was deployed outside the probe agency. “About 240 people were detained from New Delhi area today, including 8-10 senior (Congress) leaders. The remaining are office-bearers, workers,” said Sagar Preet Hooda, special commissioner of police (law and order), Delhi Police.

The National Herald probe pertains to alleged financial irregularities involving Young Indian Private Limited, promoted by the Congress, that owns the newspaper published by Associated Journals Limited and owned by Young Indian.

Audio and video of statement recorded

Rahul’s questioning began at noon and the ED has been conducting a video and audio recording of his statement for all three days. His statements are also being typed on A4 size sheets and minutely reviewed by him and signed before submission to the investigating officer.

Gandhi, agency sources told PTI, is being asked about the assets worth about Rs 800 crore “owned” by AJL and how a not-for-profit company like Young Indian was undertaking commercial activities of renting out its land and building assets.

The Congress has claimed that there was no FIR or scheduled offence in this case, on the basis of which a PMLA case was filed and Rahul as well as Congress president Sonia Gandhi were summoned. Officials said the ED action is on a “higher pedestal than that of proceedings undertaken on the basis of the FIR” as the court has taken cognisance of the Income Tax department chargesheet filed in the case and issued process.

Rahul has answered 15 to 16 questions about the incorporation of the Young Indian company, the operations of the newspaper, the loan given by the Congress to AJL and the funds transfer within the news media establishment, sources said. They added that the agency had asked Rahul about a loan of Rs 1 crore taken by Young Indian from a Kolkata-based company in February 2011 and the rationale behind it.

Questions also cover changes in the shareholding pattern of the company since 2011, procedures followed, and salaries and VRS given to journalists working in the organisation among other issues.

The Congress has denied any wrongdoing in the case, saying YI is a non-profit company established under section 25 of the Companies Act. The party said AJL, which was established in 1937, faced huge debts and the Congress, from 2002 to 2011, gave Rs 90 crore to the National Herald newspaper, out of which Rs 66 crore was used to pay the salaries/VRS of the journalists and staffers who worked there.

(With PTI inputs)

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