Slamming the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Central government on Wednesday over Enforcement Directorate (ED) probe against Rahul Gandhi in the National Herald case, Congress leader Sachin Pilot alleged that the Congress leadership is being 'targetted' for being vocal against the BJP.
He further termed the ED investigation a 'politically motivated' move.
"Those in power are targeting the dissidents. It is clearly a politically motivated move. It is not just about Mrs Gandhi or Rahul Gandhi, but the entire Opposition. The Congress leadership is being targeted because they have been vocal against BJP," Sachin Pilot told ANI.
"They come and attack through the agencies-- the Income Tax, CBI, ED. It is common knowledge that they have become tools of the party in power," he added.
The said allegations by Pilot on BJP came when the Congress leader Rahul Gandhi joined the ED probe for investigations in the National Herald case, for the fifth day today when he was questioned for around 12 hours.
Rahul Gandhi was questioned by the ED for over 40 hours on three straight days from June 13 to June 15 and on Monday (June 20). He was deposed before the ED investigators in the case for the first time on June 13. He first sought exemption from appearance on June 16, following which he was called on June 17. But the senior Congress leader wrote to the ED to postpone his questioning citing the illness of his mother Sonia Gandhi. The ED then allowed him to join the probe on June 20 at his request.
On Tuesday, the ED investigators had questioned Rahul Gandhi till midnight.
Rahul Gandhi is being questioned about the ownership of Young Indian Private Limited (YIL) by the Gandhi family and its shareholding pattern in Associated Journals Limited (AJL), the company that runs the National Herald newspaper, said sources.
The National Herald, started by India's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, was published by the AJL. In 2010, the AJL, which faced financial difficulties, was taken over by a newly-floated YIL with Suman Dubey and Sam Pitroda as directors, both of them Gandhi loyalists.
Later in the conversation, Pilot also talked about the attack of Delhi Police on the Congress leaders and house arrest by the police and said that the behaviour was extremely "condemnable".
On June 15, the Delhi Police entered the Congress office and beat up the workers there.
"In an act of absolute 'goondaism' by Delhi police at the stance of the government, they entered Congress office and beat up workers. This is criminal trespass. Their 'goondaism' has reached its zenith. This won't be tolerated and will be accounted for," Randeep Singh Surjewala had said.
Notably, Rahul Gandhi's mother Sonia Gandhi has also been summoned by the ED to appear before the investigators in the case on June 23.
There are allegations that AJL was founded in the 1930s to print National Herald and had 5,000 freedom fighters as shareholders. AJL is now in Gandhi's family ownership. AJL declared in 2008 that it would not print newspapers anymore and will enter real estate.
In 2010, a new firm called YIL is incorporated with Rs 5 lakh and with Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi among other Congress leaders as directors. It pledges to do charity but does none till 2016, as per allegations.
It is also alleged that AJL's 9 crore shares (99 pc of all) are transferred to YIL and that Rahul Gandhi alone holds 75 per cent shares while Sonia and other senior Congress own the rest.
The case to investigate alleged financial irregularities under the PMLA was registered about nine months ago after a trial court took cognisance of an Income Tax Department probe carried out on the basis of a private criminal complaint filed by BJP leader and former Rajya Sabha MP Subramanian Swamy in 2013.
Swamy had approached the court alleging that the assets of AJL were fraudulently acquired and transferred to YIL, in which Sonia Gandhi and her son owned 38 per cent shares each.
Swamy had alleged that the Gandhis cheated and misappropriated funds, with YIL paying only Rs 50 lakh to obtain the right to recover Rs 90.25 crore that AJL owed to Congress.
Congress argued that YIL was a not-for-profit company under Section 25 of the Companies Act, 1956 that can neither accumulate profits nor pay dividends to its shareholders.
The agency then recorded the statements of both the Congress leaders and then under the PMLA. While Kharge is the CEO of YIL, Bansal is the Managing Director of AJL.