NEW DELHI: Amid escalating Congress protests against the probe into the alleged money laundering in National Herald case, the Enforcement Directorate is considering to prepare a fresh set of questions for Sonia Gandhi
and Rahul Gandhi in the light of indications suggesting that funds from "shell companies" may have continued to flow into Young Indian and Associated Journals Limited (AJL) until 2019.
Sources in the ED said that there are strong indications of Young Indian and AJL having received funds from alleged shell companies well after the Supreme Court had turned down the petition for stopping the trial of the Gandhis and others in the National Herald case in February 2016.
The findings, allegedly pointing to the flow of such funds until 2018-19, based on the documents gathered by ED's team during its recent search operations, has intrigued the investigators who had thought that the setback in the top court would have acted as a deterrent against allegedly suspicious transactions. This is in addition to the Rs 1 crore Young Indian (YI) had received from Kolkata-based shell company Dotex Merchandise. YI, in which Sonia and Rahul hold 76% stake, had used Rs 50 lakh of the Dotex funds to acquire the AJL from Congress.
Sources said that the agency may need to question Sonia, Rahul, Mallikarjun Kharge, Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha who also happens to be the CEO of Young Indian, and others again, if the preliminary findings against some shell companies and their role in arranging foreign funds firm up during the course of investigation.
The ED has over the past few days carried search and seizure operations at more than half-a-dozen premises, besides the fourth floor of the Herald House in Delhi where the office of Young Indian is located. Those searched included the promoters of shell companies who allegedly provided "entries" for a fee to those seeking to turn their unaccounted money into legitimate investments.
Congress has consistently dismissed the charge of money laundering and ED's accusations against its leadership, raising the ante higher since the agency summoned Sonia and Rahul.
The investigating agency has justified its actions by contending that the takeover of Associated Journals Limited with assets worth Rs 800 crore by the just-launched Young Indian for a mere Rs 50 lakh calls for a probe and the role of Sonia and Rahul needs to be investigated for the sheer fact they, with 76% stake, are in control of YI. The agency has also claimed that the probe was challenged before the trial court, later in the Delhi high court and the Supreme Court, and they had all upheld it.
The ED had on Thursday questioned Kharge in his capacity as the CEO of Young Indian on the affairs of the company. The investigators, it is learnt, have asked Kharge as to why YI does not have employees on its rolls and how it was in conflict with Congress leader's earlier statement that the details of the operations of the concern would be known to employees who handled its day-to-day affairs.