ED Questions Sonia Gandhi; Congress Cohort Displays Familiar Arrogance
Sonia Gandhi faced up to questioning by the ED today (21 July).
Context: The Congress president was questioned in a money laundering case related to the National Herald newspaper.
She was accompanied by her children as she arrived at the ED office amidst heavy security arrangements.
Sonia was deposing on the third summons as she sought exemption on two earlier dates in June owing to Covid-19 infection.
The session lasted for about two hours.
Her statement was recorded under criminal sections of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.
Congress' response: The party slammed ED's action against its top brass and termed it 'political vendetta'.
The party took to the streets with leaders courting arrest.
Other opposition leaders voiced their protest too.
The all-too-familiar breast-beating, outrage, and political processions that follow any attempt to question or investigate the alleged wrongdoings of the Congress party’s first family was on full display.
Several leaders of the party were held when Rahul Gandhi was questioned for a few days in June in the same case.
Congress had then criticised ED for dragging Gandhi’s questioning for days and organised a 'Satyagrah March' in solidarity with him.
Even then, Rahul's reply to a fifth of the questions posed by the ED was "I am too tired."
The muscle power is sought to be displayed whenever the first family is interrogated for a few reasons.
The party hopes to intimidate the investigating officials, so that they know that if the Congress comes to power, they may face action.
It sends a message to members of the party that those who don’t demonstrate volubly in favour of the Gandhis will be considered disloyal.
It tells the public that all this is political vendetta, even if there is a prima facie case against the Gandhis.
Unquestioned impunity: Even in the earlier Bofors howitzers scam, no probe agency dared to question the Gandhis, and especially Sonia Gandhi, whose pal Ottavio Quattrocchi was a recipient in the payoffs.
At that time, Quattrocchi's accounts were temporarily frozen, an action that was later reversed by a Sonia Gandhi loyalist, H R Bhardwaj.
What matters is that Sonia Gandhi was not only not questioned in the Bofors scam when it was her friend Quattrocchi who was allegedly involved as middleman, but, in the end, Quattrocchi got his payoff too.
National Herald vs Bofors: Despite glaring similarities, there are differences in the way the investigation has proceeded in the two cases.
In the Bofors case, the linkages to Sonia Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi were not allowed to be fully investigated while the current case is being investigated comprehensively.
In the National Herald case, there is no doubt that Sonia Gandhi and her son got a valuable piece of real estate owned by National Herald transferred to a private trust controlled by them.
The National Herald case revolves around cheating and breach of trust in the acquisition of Associated Journals Ltd (AJL) by Young Indian Ltd (YIL).
The ED is probing the shareholding pattern, the financial transactions of AJL and YIL, and the role of Congress functionaries in the functioning of the two entities.
Rahul and Sonia hold 76 per cent of the YIL shares, while 24 per cent was with late Congress leaders Oscar Fernandes and Motilal Vora.
It is alleged that YIL took over the assets of AJL in a malicious manner and paid just Rs 50 lakh to obtain the rights to recover Rs 90.25 crore that AJL owed the Congress party.
Reportedly, Rahul is unable to answer how the Congress gave a loan to AJL and if there was any evidence for it.
Next up: Sonia Gandhi will face up to another round of questioning on 25 July.
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