The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Tuesday said in the National Herald money-laundering case, it has provisionally attached properties valued at Rs 751.9 Crore. "During the probe of the case it was found that 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 Rs. 661.69 Crore and Young Indian (YI) is in possession of proceeds of crime to the tune of Rs. 90.21 Crore in the form of investment in equity shares of AJL," the Enforcement Directorate said.
It is worth mentioning that the agency has previously interrogated Sonia and Rahul Gandhi in this case.
National Herald case
The agency initiated money-laundering investigation against National Herald on the basis of process issued by the court of Metropolitan Magistrate of Delhi after taking cognisance of a private complaint vide order dated June 26, 2014. The ED statement said on Tuesday that court held that seven accused persons including M/s Young India, prima facie committed offences of criminal breach of trust u/s 406 of Indian Penal Code, cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property under section 420 (cheating) of IPC, dishonest misappropriation of property u/s 403 and criminal conspiracy u/s 120B of IPC. The Hon’ble Court held that the accused persons hatched a criminal conspiracy to acquire properties worth hundreds of Crores of AJL through a special purpose vehicle, M/s Young Indian.
M/s AJL was given land on concessional rates in various cities of India for the purpose of publishing newspapers. AJL closed its publishing operations in 2008 and started using the properties for commercial purposes. AJL had to repay a loan of Rs. 90.21 Crore to All India Congress Committee (AICC), however AICC treated the said loan of Rs.90.21 Crore as non-recoverable from AJL and sold it for Rs.50 lakh to a newly incorporated company M/s Young Indian without any source of income to pay even Rs.50 lakh. By their action, the shareholders of AJL as well as donors of Congress Party were cheated by the office bearers of AJL and Congress Party -ED alleged.ED investigation revealed that after purchasing the loan of Rs.90.21 Crore from AICC, YI demanded either repayment of loan or allotment of equity shares of AJL to it. AJL held an Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) and passed a resolution to increase share capital and issue fresh shares worth Rs.90.21 Crore to YI. With this fresh allotment of shares, shareholding of more than 1000 shareholders was reduced to a mere 1% and AJL became a subsidiary company of YI. YI also took control over properties of AJL.
Young Indian assumed control of Associated Journals Limited, the publisher of the National Herald, acquiring assets worth over 800 crores. The Income Tax department asserts that these assets should be regarded as belonging to Young Indian shareholders Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, and thus, they are liable for taxes. However, the Congress party contends that Young Indian operates as a non-profit entity, arguing that its shareholders cannot derive financial benefits from its assets.
The Enforcement Directorate contends that Young Indian has not engaged in any charitable activities and is ineligible for claiming benefits. Its sole transaction was the transfer of Associated Journals Limited's (AJL) debt. In response, the Congress has countered that the newspaper itself constitutes the charitable endeavor.
However, the ED attaching the properties ahead of the key assembly polls in five states and the general election next year will certainly cause political upheaval, leading to opposition parties blaming the Modi government for the same.