The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Wednesday sealed the National Herald office, instructing that the premises are not opened without prior permission from the probe agency.
The probe agency took action a day after the Enforcement Directorate (ED) carried out raids at 12 locations in the national capital and at other places in connection with the National Herald case in which top Congress leaders are accused of violating norms.
“Delhi Police blocking the road to AICC Headquarters has become a norm rather than an exception! Why have they just done so is mysterious…,” Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said.
The National Herald case pertains to the alleged financial irregularities under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) and 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 former Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP Subramanian Swamy 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 Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi 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.
The raids were conducted days after the investigative agency questioned Congress interim-president Sonia Gandhi for nearly three hours on July 27.
It was the third round of questioning of the senior leader in the case. Following the summoning of Sonia Gandhi by the ED, Congress workers and leaders staged protests in various parts of the country alleging misuse of probe agencies by the government.
Sonia Gandhi was questioned by ED on July 26 also. She had reached the ED office accompanied by her daughter Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.
Officials said on that day, the party president’s response was sought to around 30 questions regarding her involvement with the National Herald newspaper and Young Indian Pvt Ltd. During her questioning, the Lok Sabha MP from Rae Bareli was asked about the functioning and running of the newspaper, the role of its various office bearers.
Prior to that, she was also questioned by ED on July 21. Meanwhile, in June, the ED questioned Rahul Gandhi for five days.
Rahul Gandhi was questioned by the ED for over 27 hours for three straight days from June 13 to June 15 and was again summoned on June 20.On June 20, he was questioned for around 14 hours.
The Congress leader deposed before the ED investigators in the case for the first time on June 13. He initially sought an 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.