Indian politician Rahul Gandhi questioned in money laundering probe

The BJP accuses India’s main opposition leader of forming a shell company and illegally gaining control of property worth $300m.

Rahul Gandhi
Rahul Gandhi was questioned for about three hours, a Congress party official said [File: Anuwar Hazarika/Reuters]

Indian money laundering investigators have questioned the main opposition leader Rahul Gandhi as his supporters jostled with police outside the financial crime-fighting agency’s office in the capital, New Delhi.

The investigation by the Enforcement Directorate is linked to a nine-year-old complaint by a member of parliament from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) against Gandhi and his mother, Congress party’s president Sonia Gandhi.

The BJP legislator behind the complaint, Subramanian Swamy, accused the Gandhis of forming a shell company and illegally gaining control of property worth $300m.

The assets had belonged to a firm that published the National Herald newspaper, founded in 1937 by India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, who was Rahul Gandhi’s great grandfather.

A Congress spokesman said the Gandhis and the party had done nothing illegal and the investigation was politically motivated.

“We will fight undeterred, we will fight fearlessly,” Randeep Singh Surjewala told reporters. “We will answer every question.”

A spokesman for the finance ministry’s Enforcement Directorate, which investigates money laundering and violations of foreign exchange laws, was not available for comment.

Police blocked off some parts of New Delhi with barricades as Gandhi, along with Congress leaders and party workers, marched to the directorate’s offices for the questioning.

Congress protest in India
Police officers attempt to stop Congress supporters from entering the Enforcement Directorate office in Mumbai [Francis Mascarenhas/Reuters]

Gandhi was questioned for about three hours, another Congress official said, adding the police detained scores of party supporters protesting against Gandhi’s questioning.

“A disgusting and cowardly conspiracy is being hatched against the leadership of the Indian National Congress to mislead the country,” the Congress party said in a statement earlier this month.

“The entire party and every worker will stand shoulder to shoulder with them and we will fight and win this attack on the country’s democracy.”

The Congress party ruled for decades after its founders led India to independence from British colonial rule in 1947. But its fortunes have declined precipitously since the BJP easily defeated it in the general elections of 2014 and 2019.

Source: News Agencies