In a recent twist in the long-running investigation into the affairs of the Congress-run National Herald newspaper, the Enforcement Directorate seized assets worth Rs 751 crore connected to its publisher Associated Journals Limited (AJL) and its holding firm Young Indian Limited (YIL) on Tuesday.
The investigating agency has attached the National Herald’s office in Delhi’s ITO, the Nehru Bhawan in Lucknow’s Kaiserbagh, and the Herald House in Mumbai. “Associated Journals Ltd. (AJL) is in possession of proceeds of crime in the form of immovable properties spread across many cities such as Delhi, Mumbai and Lucknow to the tune of ₹661.69 crore……and Young Indian (YI) is in possession of proceeds of crime to the tune of ₹90.21 crore in the form of investment in equity shares of the AJL,” the ED said in a statement.
What is the National Herald case about?
Jawaharlal Nehru founded and edited the National Herald before becoming India’s first Prime Minister. The tabloid ceased operations in 2008 after incurring a debt of more than 90 crore, which was reportedly not repaid.
Subramanian Swamy, a prominent BJP politician, filed a complaint against Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi in 2012, accusing them of illegal theft of money and the establishment of YIL in 2010 to purchase the AJL’s debt with party funds.
Swami said in his lawsuit that the Young Indian company only paid 50 lakh to allocate the AJL’s 90.25 crore debt to the Congress. No political organization may engage in financial transactions with a third party under the Income Tax Act.
Swamy further claimed that the Gandhi family defrauded the government by operating a passport office on land provided to AJL only for the purpose of printing newspapers and receiving rental revenue worth millions of rupees.
In addition to Rahul and Sonia Gandhi, the complaint names late Congress stalwarts Motilal Vohra and Oscar Fernandes, entrepreneur Sam Pitroda, and journalist Suman Dubey.
Since 2016, the ED has been investigating
The ED began its inquiry into the AJL and the roles of several Congress leaders after taking cognizance of a Central Bureau of inquiry (CBI) case.
According to the agency, the accused, who include ex-Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda and Motilal Vora, ‘used proceeds of crime’, in the form of land illegally allotted to AJL in Haryana’s Panchkula, to obtain a loan from a Syndicate Bank branch in Delhi to construct a building in Mumbai’s Bandra area. The Congress Party accuses the BJP of a “political vendetta.”
The Congress has claimed that the YIL was founded “for the purpose of charity” and not for profit. It has also accused the BJP of ‘political vendetta’ describing the matter as a “strange case of alleged money laundering without any money”.
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