NEW DELHI: A day after the Enforcement Directorate (ED) carried out searches at several locations in connection with the alleged money laundering case involving National Herald, the financial probe agency sealed the Young India Limited (YIL) office at Herald House, which is the office of Associated Journal Limited (AJL).
The ED in its sealing order pasted at Herald House said, “It is hereby ordered that this premises not be opened without prior permission from the Directorate of Enforcement.”
ED sources told The New Indian that only Young Indian office has been temporarily sealed as there was no one from their side to get the searches conducted.
“The principal officer (Mallikarjun) Kharge came but left the premises without getting the searches conducted,” the source said, adding, “As and when the authorised person presents himself for concluding the search, seal will be lifted.”
The development comes a day after the ED carried out searches at the premises of National Herald here at Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg and 12 other locations in Mumbai, Lucknow.
Following the sealing of the Herald House, the Delhi Police also deployed heavy security at the Congress headquarters and the residence of Sonia Gandhi.
Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh took to Twitter and said, “Delhi Police blocking the road to AICC Headquarters has become a norm rather than an exception! Why have they just done so is mysterious…”
The ED had quizzed Congress interim chief Sonia Gandhi for three days for over 13 hours and former party chief Rahul Gandhi for over 54 hours in five days.
The Herald House is also the registered office of AJL and YIL. Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi are majority shareholders of the YIPL.
The ED registered a fresh case about 10 months ago after a trial court in Delhi took cognisance of an Income Tax Department probe. The probe was carried out based on a private criminal complaint filed by former BJP MP Subramanian Swamy in 2013.
Swamy claimed that Young Indian Limited (YIL) “took over” the assets of the defunct print media outlet in a “malicious” manner to gain profit and assets worth over ₹2,000 crores. The BJP leader also alleged that YIL had paid ₹50 lakhs to obtain the rights to recover ₹90.25 crores which AJL owed the Congress party.
In 2014, the ED initiated a probe to see if there was any money laundering in the case. On September 18, 2015, the case was reopened by the ED.
It is pertinent to note that in 2020, the ED had attached one of the most prime properties in Mumbai’s Bandra under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). The said property, with market value to the tune of hundreds of crores of rupees, was illegally allotted to AJL.
Seven accused in the case – veteran Congress leader Motilal Vora, AICC general secretary Oscar Fernandes, Suman Dubey, Sam Pitroda, YI and the Gandhis – have all denied accusations against them.
Earlier this year in April, the ED also questioned senior Congress leaders Mallikarjun Kharge and Pawan Bansal.