NEW DELHI: Ahead of
president Sonia Gandhi’s questioning in the alleged National Herald money laundering case, the
) has gathered what investigators consider to be crucial details regarding Young Indian (YI) and its ‘suspicious’ Rs 1 crore ‘unsecured loan’ from Kolkata-based shell company Dotex Merchandise.
Investigation has revealed that “Sunil Bhandari and Sunil Sanganeria were not only directors of Dotex Merchandise Pvt Ltd but also 50 other Kolkata-based companies. A survey of the income tax department showed that these companies had been engaged in the business of providing accommodation entries i.e. in layman’s terms, providing cover for money laundering in exchange for fee”, sources claimed.
As per the Companies Act, one can be a whole-time director only in one company.
The ED is probing YI, a company majority owned by Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, and its takeover of the Associated Journals Ltd (AJL) along with its assets estimated to be over Rs 800 crore. The Gandhis are being investigated for alleged laundering of Rs 1 crore through the Kolkata-based shell company and using the proceeds to take over AJL, the publisher of National Herald.
Dotex provided YI the required funds to take over AJL from Congress. The party accepted Rs 50 lakh from YI as full-and-final settlement of its Rs 90 crore debt owed by the AJL, before transferring 100% shareholding (of AJL to YI).
The session with the Congress chief is also likely to see investigators trying to find answers to questions that form the core of the investigation: how Congress paid over Rs 90 crore to AJL. The ED has been trying to ascertain whether the payment was made, as claimed by Congress, in cash or by cheque but sessions with senior party functionaries, Rahul, Mallikarjun Kharge and party treasurer Pawan Bansal, have not made the investigators wiser. All the functionaries questioned so far have not been able to tell them about the mode of payment, sources said.
Investigators are set to put the same questions to Sonia, who was also the party president when YI took over the AJL in 2011. She may be asked to disclose details of how Congress provided the AJL with Rs 90 crore, and the source of the money. “If it was a banking transaction, the details can be established through bank statements. If it was cash, the source of funds can be disclosed as it was not a small amount,” sources said.
So far, the party functionaries have maintained that Congress had given the AJL Rs 90 crore for payment towards VRS (voluntary retirement scheme) and salary dues of employees of National Herald. However, they have not provided, sources claimed, supporting documents to establish these transactions, saying these transactions were handled by former Congress treasurer late Motilal Vora.
According to the IT department’s probe report shared with the ED, the “amount of Rs 1 crore in this case represents the own laundered money of Young Indian”. The transaction with Dotex is crucial in establishing the ‘money laundering’ allegations against YI and its majority shareholders, the Gandhis. The probe further revealed that “the loan of Rs 1 crore was given to YI, the newly launched company, with a small capital base of only Rs 5 lakh without any guarantee”.
The tax return of YI filed with the Registrar of Companies further revealed that “for financial year 2013-14, unsecured loan of Rs 1 crore against Dotex Merchandise. is standing as it is and it has not been repaid”.