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National Herald: ED closes case against Sonia Gandhi, Rahul; Subramanian Swamy cries foul

In a big relief to Congress president Sonia Gandhi and son Rahul, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) has decided to close the preliminary inquiry in the National Herald case, writing to the revenue secretary that there was no case to be made out for registering a case under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

Sonia, Rahul

This has raised strong protest from BJP leader Subramanian Swamy, who shot off two letters to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, accusing current ED director Dr Rajiv Katoch of having no interest in pursuing the cases related to the Congress. He even went to the extent of saying that the director, who is also a secretary in the government, is saving the Congress leaders as he is close with party leader Digvijay Singh.

In a letter to the finance ministry on May 1, 2015, Katoch, then joint director, had written that the metropolitan magistrate had summoned Sonia and Rahul only to verify the allegations. Swamy alleged that the joint director, who woke up after 11 months, was ignorant of the fact that summons issued under CrPc 204 are meant for conducting a trial.

“Yet this joint director, woefully or out of inexcusable ignorance, says the summons were issued to verify allegations, and, therefore, on the basis of this reckless disregard of law, he concludes that it was not possible to initiate investigations,” said Swamy.

Swamy had dragged Sonia and Rahul to a city court last year, alleging that the family was trying to acquire the properties of Associated Journal Limited, a company founded by Jawaharlal Nehru to bring out National Herald, Navjeevan and Qaumi Awaz as English, Hindi and Urdu dailies, respectively.

He had slapped on them charges of cheating and criminal breach of trust by diverting Congress funds to a family-controlled Young India company set up in 2011, in which the mother and son held 76% shares. He alleged that Young India acquired the right to recover Rs 90.25 crore that AJL owed to the Congress by just paying Rs 50 lakh, noting that the family’s eyes were on real-estate properties worth millions in Delhi, Mumbai, Patna, Lucknow, Indore, Bhopal and other places.

He asserted that the ED closing the case does not make much difference as the case is now in the court. He said he would approach Prime Minister Modi as he sees in ED’s move “the political influence from the Congress party to close the National Herald case.”

Besides Sonia and Rahul, Congress treasurer Moti Lal Vora, general secretary Oscar Fernandes and family friend and journalist Suman Dubey had moved the Delhi high court on July 30 last year against a Delhi city court issuing summons to appear before it on Dr Swamy’s complaint.

The high court stayed the summons on August 6, 2014, just a day before they were to appear before the trial court. Sam Pitroda, a family friend and technical adviser to then PM Rajiv Gandhi, was also issued notice, but he never bothered to challenge it. Fresh summons were issued against him on December 9 last year as he has not filed any appeal in the high court.

Sonia and Rahul are the principal shareholders in Young India, set up as a private non-profit company, in March 2011, to revive the National Herald, which was closed down in 2008 due to financial problems as also the group’s Hindi and Urdu dailies.

The Congress kept funding the newspapers but they finally folded them up on April 1, 2008, with their liabilities to the party shooting up to Rs 90.21 crore. It was Motilal Vora who took the decision to better close down the English and Urdu dailies as the party treasurer.