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National Herald case: ED lens on Congress’ claim of Rs 90-crore loan to AJL

The ED questioning is continuing for several reasons, including Gandhi’s inability to answer how the Congress gave a loan to AJL and if there was any evidence of it.

The ED questioning is continuing for several reasons, including Gandhi’s inability to answer how the Congress gave a loan to AJL and if there was any evidence of it.

On the fifth day of his deposition before the Enforcement Directorate in the National Herald money-laundering case on Tuesday, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi was questioned for over 11 hours. The former Congress chief has been questioned for about 54 hours by the ED over these five sittings. 

The questioning was continuing for several reasons, including Gandhi’s inability to answer how the Congress gave a loan to Associate Journals Limited (AJL) and if there was any evidence of it, according to sources in the agency as quoted by The Indian Express

The Congress has been claiming it gave a loan of Rs 90 crore to AJL, the publisher of National Herald newspaper, over a period of time and to offset it, the AJL converted its debt into equity and sold it to Young Indian, owned by the Gandhis. However, no Congress leader questioned by the ED has been able to provide evidence for the same, they added. 

Party leaders Mallikarjun Kharge and Pawan Bansal have already been questioned by ED in connection with the money-laundering case. 

“We have been asking all Congress leaders to give us the cheque numbers through which these payments were made or bank statements that show these payments. However, no one, including Rahul, seems to be aware of anything. No one is even saying that there was any cash payment. In the books of AJL, it is not clearly spelt out and is mentioned only as a general entry,” The Indian Express quoted an ED official as saying. 

The loan by the All India Congress Committee (AICC) to the AJL is also being questioned as a political party is not allowed to give loans under the Representation of the People Act. 

This issue had also been deliberated upon during investigations by the Income Tax department. The I-T Department had in its report called payments claimed by the Congress as “alleged loan” as there was no evidence of any payment.

The ED has also rejected Congress’ defence that Young Indian was a non-profit organisation and so there was no question of making money and laundering money.

“Young Indian is not carrying out any charitable activity since 2010 and has been engaged in commercial business. It has taken over AJL properties worth more than Rs 800 crore and has been earning rent on them. Thus, the claim that even if the properties were fraudulently taken over, the benefit will go for charitable purpose is an untenable argument,” an official said. 

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