The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Tuesday raided the head office of the Congress party-owned National Herald newspaper and 11 other locations as part of an ongoing money laundering investigation. The move has come a week after the agency questioned Congress chief Sonia Gandhi.
While Sonia Gandhi was questioned for more than 11 hours, spread over three rounds in July, Rahul Gandhi was probed by the ED for five days, at intervals, clocking over 50 hours in June. Senior Congress politicians like Mallikarjun Kharge and Pawan Bansal were also questioned by the ED in April.
The searches were carried out under the criminal sections of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) to “gather additional evidence with regard to the trail of funds and they are against those entities who were involved in the National Herald-linked transactions”, the agency said.
The action was undertaken in light of fresh evidence obtained by the ED after the latest questioning of various people in this case, officials said.
Officers of the federal agency searched the office of the National Herald located in the Herald House building at Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg near ITO in central Delhi.
Meanwhile, the Congress slammed the Centre after the raids. Denouncing the move, senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh tweeted, “The raids on Herald House, Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg, are a part of the continued attack against India’s principal opposition Indian National Congress. We strongly condemn this vendetta politics against those who speak up against the Modi Govt. You cannot silence us.”
According to officials, the location of a shell (dummy) company in Kolkata involved in the case, has also been covered in the raids. The Congress party had called the ED action against its leaders “political vendetta”, saying there was no money laundering in the case.
The Congress party has said it gave a Rs 90 crore loan to an ailing Associated Journals Ltd (AJL), which published National Herald, between 2001-02 and 2010-11. Later, in 2011, the shares of AJL were allotted to Young Indian and this debt was converted into equity and the loan was extinguished in the books of the AJL, the agency said.
The ED claims these transactions attract anti-money laundering charges as a complex web of transactions and routing of funds were undertaken by the party and its leaders to acquire AJL's assets worth multiple crores of rupees.