Congress president Sonia Gandhi and the rest of her party members may be crying 'witch hunt' over the National Herald case - a fair enough accusation given Subramanian Swamy's hate affair with her - but it looks like the Gandhis have some serious explaining to do.
It turns out that Young India, a self proclaimed 'not for profit' organisation in which Sonia and Rahul Gandhi own a majority stake has been collecting rent from lessees occupying property in National Herald house, the headquarters of the now defunct newspaper which is at the centre of the scandal.
A report in NDTV says that four floors of the five-storey building have been let out at market rates.
According to the report:
The ground floor and the first floor are let out to the Passport Seva Kendra of the Ministry of External Affairs and the second and the third floor to IT major Tata Consultancy Services or TCS. While Passport Seva Kendra pays a market rent of about 60 lakh rupees per month, TCS pays 27 lakh rupees, sources told NDTV. On the top floor is the office of Young Indian, registered under section 25 of the Companies Act, which lists Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi as majority stakeholders with 76 per cent stake in total. The rest is divided between Congress veterans Motilal Vora and Oscar Fernandes.
And while Sonia Gandhi defiantly said that "this political witch hunt will only enable us come to power faster", the truth is that the Congress chief clearly knows that all the facts related to the National Herald case cannot be simply dismissed as 'political vendetta'.
There is little doubt that the modus operandi employed to make the Gandhis-owned Young Indian owner of Associate Journals is suspect.
A Firstpost report goes deeper how the whole transaction occurred: "The Congress party lent Rs 90 crore to Associated Journals Ltd (AJL), a defunct media company that once published National Herald, which then got taken over by Young Indian, a non-profit company under section 25 of the Companies Act owned largely by Sonia Gandhi and Rahul for Rs 50 lakh. In the process, the loan given to Associated Journals became a loan to Young Indian, and the latter got full control over Associated Journals and all its assets.... In essence, with just Rs 50 lakh of their own, a private Section 25 non-profit controlled by mother and son now owns property worth Rs 1,600 crore. Or so it is alleged.... It is not going to be easy for the dynastic duo to wriggle out of this one, for the facts clearly show that Sonia and Rahul owned 3,800 shares - 1,900 each - out of the issued capital of 5,000 shares of Young Indian – at least at the time the controversy broke cover in 2011-12. "
Metropolitan Magistrate Gomati Manocha has already issued a summons to the Gandhis saying, "I have found prima facie evidence against all the accused... From the complaint and the evidence led so far it appears YI (Young Indian) was in fact created as a sham or a cloak to convert public money to personal use or as a special purpose vehicle for acquiring control over Rs2,000 crore worth of assets."
And following suit, the I-T department is also likely to send a notice to the Congress party, seeking seek an explanation as to why tax exemption shouldn't be withdrawn for the Congress.
And the NDTV report raises further questions. Who benefits from Associated Journal's properties? In other words, who is collecting the rent?
Curioser and curioser?