Bhupinder Singh Hooda, the Congress leader who was Chief Minister of Haryana, has been charged with money-laundering in a case related to his party’s top two bosses, Sonia Gandhi and her son, Rahul. Mr Hooda, as Chief Minister, violated the law to allow property in Haryana to be transferred to a company in which the Gandhis are majority stake-holders, according to the Enforcement Directorate, which investigates financial crimes.
What has been dubbed the “National Herald Case” was filed by the BJP’s Subramanian Swamy in 2012. He alleges that the Gandhis misused party funds for personal gain.
The Gandhis and the Congress have rejected any wrong doing, describing the case as vendetta by a politician who has said his goal is “to send the Gandhis to jail”.
Mr Swamy has accused the Gandhis of cheating and criminal breach of trust by setting up a shell company to illegally gain control of properties worth $300 million that belonged to the Associated Journals Limited, a company that published the National Herald, a newspaper founded by Rahul’s great grandfather, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.
The National Herald was discontinued in 2008, a decision taken by Sonia Gandhi when its publisher had racked up debt of 15 million dollars, according to court documents.
Mr Swamy says that the Gandhis set up a firm called Young Indian to buy the debt using Congress party funds, even though Associated Journals allegedly had real estate assets worth at least $335 million, which would have cleared the debt.
Mr Swamy has alleged that the Young Indian Company then owned all of the equity in Associated Journals and rented out its properties to profit its shareholders, including the Gandhis, who together controlled 76 percent.
Mr Hooda, who lost the Haryana election to the BJP two years ago, is accused of allegedly transferring land to Associated Journals Limited in Panchkula in 2005, despite his government’s lawyers advising against it.
A plot of land given to the publisher in 1982 had been reclaimed by the government after Associated Journals failed to construct on it. Mr Hooda re-allotted the plot to the company within six months of coming to office.
The Gandhis have been granted bail and exempted from appearing personally in hearings by the Supreme Court, though it has not cancelled their trial.