The answer is Yes and here is why.
Rahul Gandhi’s love affair with the Enforcement Directorate (ED) is in full bloom. After the famous “questioning” by the ED last year of Rahul Gandhi and his mother Sonia Gandhi, the sleuths have progressed and announced attachment of assets worth ₹751 crore linked with the now defunct newspaper National Herald’s publisher Associated Journals Limited (AJL) and its holding company Young Indian Limited (YIL).
An association of more than 5000 freedom fighters joined together in 1937 as shareholders in a company known as Associated Journals Limited (AJL) to establish a voice for them in their fight to gain independence from the British rule. That voice was to be in the form of a newspaper called National Herald published by the AJL and the foundin editor was Jawahar Lal Nehru, the maternal grandfather of Rahul Gandhi, who later on became the first Prime Minister (PM) of India.
AJL, the company also published two other dailies – the Qaumi Awaz in Urdu and Navjeevan in Hindi.
When Nehru took over as the PM, he resigned as chairman of the board of newspaper handing over the control to the Congress party personnel who ran the publication.
Along the way, various pieces of prized real estate in the Delhi, Mumbai, Lucknow and other cities were handed over to the AJL, worth ₹100s of crores were handed over to the AJL by the government for practically no payments to be made.
And yet, running the publications until 2008, the AJL collected huge losses along the way, to the tune of ₹90.21 crore.
Now although the doors were slammed shut on the thousands of employees of the AJL, the pieces of real estate were there to be “taken care of” or returned to their respective owner governments.
The folk at the AJL thought of a clever plan. The camouflage of insolvency of a defunct business going defunct was now to be crafted in to personally gain from the control of the prized real estate in prime locations of top cities of the country.
This led to the birth of Young India Limited (YIL) company in 2010. The shareholders of the YIL were Rahul Gandhi (38%), Sonia Gandhi (38%) and the rest of 24% share was owned by 4 of their other Congress mates – Late Moti Lal Vohra (6%), Late Oscar Fernandes (6%), Sam Pitroda (6%) and Suman Dubey (6%).
The way YIL was set up was that the majority of shares 76% in the YIL company was owned by Sonia and Rahul Gandhi.
And it would so happen that YIL would make an offer to buy the AJL’s debt of ₹90.21 crore for a paltry sum of ₹50 Lakhs.
Yes, buying a debt of ₹90.21 crore for a paltry sum of ₹50 Lakhs.
And they were successful. In other words, Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, took over the assets of AJL all over India for ₹50 Lakhs.
In 2012, BJP leader Subramanian Swamy filed a complaint against Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi accusing them of criminal misappropriation of funds and setting up of YIL in 2010 to buy the AJL’s debt using the party’s funds.
Swamy also alleged that the Gandhi family committed fraud by running a passport office on land given by the government to AJL only for publishing newspapers, and earning rental income worth millions of rupees.
Swamy named all six shareholders – Rahul Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi, late Motilal Vohra, late Oscar Fernandes, Sam Pitroda and Suman Dubey in the complaint.
Once the cognizance of the complaint was taken and the issue got public attention, the group re-launched National Herald in 2016, this time only as a digital publication.
All properties have been earning exorbitant rental income and those are yet to be properly accounted for.
That brought in the financial investigators of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) of India into the picture which has been investigating the whole saga for years.
The ED is not only looking at the way YIL took control but also the way, the 5000 shareholders, original owners of the AJL were suddenly disenfranchised in the exercise and only six people became the controllers and shareholders of the assets worth ₹ multi crores.
We all remember the demonstrations by Congress workers on the streets of Delhi when Sonia and Rahul Gandhi were summoned for questioning by the ED last year in this matter.
They were questioned for days. The investigations are ongoing and on November 21, the special court formed the view that some of the assets in Delhi, Lucknow and Mumbai should be attached.
As a consequence, the National Herald’s office in Delhi’s ITO, the Nehru Bhawan in Lucknow’s Kaiserbagh and the Herald House in Mumbai – the immovable property assets at those locations have been attached by the probe agency.
“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 ₹661.69 crore……and Young Indian (YI) is in possession of proceeds of crime to the tune of ₹90.21 crore in the form of investment in equity shares of the AJL,” the ED said in a statement.
“Investigation revealed that M/s. Associated Journals Ltd. (AJL) is in possession of proceeds of crime in the form of immovable properties spread across many cities of India such as Delhi, Mumbai and Lucknow to the tune of Rs 661.69 crore and M/s. 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,” ED said in a statement.
Congress accuses BJP of ‘political vendetta’
Unsurprisingly, the Congress has accused the BJP of ‘political vendetta’ describing the matter as a “strange case of alleged money laundering without any money”.
It maintains the YIL was formed ‘with the aim of charity’ and not for profit, falling short of explaining how of 5000 plus members, only six congressmen became controllers and shareholders of the assets of the AJL.
Sonia and Rahul certainly are in hot waters on this, being 76% owners in the YIL and holding a super controlling stake. It depends how strong willed the ED sleuths are.