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Congress to protest nationwide against ED summons to Sonia Gandhi in National Herald case

NEW DELHI: Congress leaders, in a meeting on Wednesday, decided to protest across the country against the BJP-led Central Government on July 21, the day Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi is scheduled to appear before the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in National Herald case.

Another significant meeting has been called by the party today (on Thursday), where all the general secretaries, state in-charges and PCC chiefs will discuss ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ and other organisational programs.

In the meeting, top leaders will discuss the protest march and other public outreach programmes.

With the Monsoon Session of Parliament starting from July 18, the Congress MPs will also take the opportunity to protest inside the Parliament premises.

Talking to ANI after the meeting, Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge said, “Congress President Sonia Gandhi is a tigress. She is not afraid of these things. She has seen so many things like this. She will go to the ED office and face this Government.”

The Enforcement Directorate has summoned Congress Interim President Sonia Gandhi for questioning in connection with the National Herald case in which senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge, Pawan Bansal has already been questioned.

Besides them, ED questioned former Congress President and Wayanad MP Rahul Gandhi last month in June in the case for more than five days and during that time also Congress Party leaders and workers protested against ED and BJP-led Centre for indulging in ‘vendetta politics.’

The party workers and leaders also protested the “brutal” action by Delhi police officials who manhandled many party activists and allegedly entered the Congress headquarters in Delhi forcefully.

According to sources, the party has also prepared pamphlets to be distributed among the public on the National Herald case.

Today’s meeting was attended by the Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge, Congress General Secretary Organisation KC Venugopal, AICC Treasurer Pawan Bansal, AICC General Secretary Mukul Wasnik, Ajay Maken, Randeep Surjewala, Bhawar Jitendra Singh and Rajya Sabha MP and AICC in-charge of Delhi Shaktisinh Gohil.

Official sources said that Sonia Gandhi has been asked to appear before the investigators at its headquarters here around 11 am on July 21.

Fresh summons were issued to Sonia Gandhi as she could not appear before its investigators on June 8 in the case for the first time in connection with a money laundering case involving the National Herald as she was infected with COVID-19 and was hospitalised.

The ED wants to record both Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi’s statements under criminal sections of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

The ED last month questioned Rahul Gandhi on several occasions in the case.

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 in 2013.

The petitioner had approached the court alleging that the assets of Associated Journals Limited (AJL), which published the National Herald newspaper, were fraudulently acquired and transferred to Young Indian Pvt Limited (YIL), in which Sonia Gandhi and her son owned 38 per cent shares each.

The YIL promoters include Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. 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.

Calling it a case of political vendetta, senior Supreme Court advocate and Congress leader Abhishek Singhvi had said, “This is truly a very weird case — an alleged money laundering case on which summons are issued with no money involved.”

The federal agency’s move followed the questioning of senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge and Congress Treasurer Pawan Bansal in April this year in New Delhi in connection with its money laundering probe into the National Herald case.

The agency then recorded the statements of both the Congress leaders then under the PMLA. The National Herald is published by AJL and owned by YIL. While Kharge is the CEO of YIL, Bansal is the Managing Director of AJL.

The ED is currently investigating the shareholding pattern and financial transactions as well as the role of party functionaries in the functioning of AJL and YIL.

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