Did Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi form a company called Young Indian with the deliberate intention of diverting funds from Associate Journals Ltd (AJL), a company owned by the Congress? The issue is at the crux of a Public Interest Litigation in the metropolitan magistrates court in Patiala House in New Delhi.
The allegation is that a company called Young Indian with Sonia and Rahul Gandhi as major shareholders was incorporated in 2010 and then all incomes from AJL was diverted to it.
Young Indian initially had the registered address at the residence of senior journalist Suman Dubey in N-125, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi That was then shifted to 5 A Herald House, headquarter of Associate Journals Ltd (AJL),in January 2011.
Huge rental income generated through AJL properties in different states are now parked with the Young Indian. The Metropolitan magistrate Gomati Manocha last week summoned Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Suman Dubey and three others regarding the allegation of misappropriation of AJL funds.
The metropolitan magistrate observed that 'it appears that Young India 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 Associated Journals Ltd assets worth over Rs 2,000 crore. The court also summoned Congress treasurer Moti Lal Vohra, general secretary Oscar Fernandes and Sam Pitroda.
The YI, at the time of its incorporation had an authorized capital of Rs Rs 500,000, while AJL as per conservative estimate has assets worth Rs 2,000 crore.
AJL owns real estate properties worth millions in Delhi, Mumbai, Patna, Lucknow, Indore, Bhopal and other places. In Delhi, Herald House, a six-storey building with around 1,00,000 sq feet office space is owned by the AJL. As of now the two floors of the building are on rent with Ministry of External Affairs, while two floors are with Tata Consultancy Services, all serving as Regional Passport Office.
According to realty experts, the rental per square feet rent of office space at BSZ Marg is between Rs 85 and Rs 90.
Similarly in Lucknow, AJL owns a two-acre plot on which two buildings – Nehru Bhawan at Mall Avenue and Nehru Manzil have been constructed. The rental rate per square foot is around Rs 25 to Rs 30 in the area. One of the Congress offices in Lucknow is located in Nehru Bhawan. In Mumbai, AJL owns a 3,400 square yard plot in Bandra East near Bandra Station while in Bhopal, a 50,000 square feet plot with building belongs to AJL. And, in Indore AJL owns a 22,000 square feet property with buildings.
K Vikram Rao of Indian Federation of Working Journalists states that the alleged misappropriation of Rs 2,000 crore is ' the tip of the iceberg.'
"We are planning to implead ourselves in the petition in the court. It is a huge scandal and needs to be probed by the premier investigators of the country. This scam is bigger than Sahara," said Rao, whose father was the founder editor of Associated Journals in 1938. He adds that the newspaper was started by Jana Nidhi Trust. "Nehru gave land to newspaper for publishing and newspaper and not to sublet it. Even Sonia Gandhi assured of starting a newspaper few years back but nothing happened," he added.
However, Moti Lal Vohra, Congress treasurer, refutes all allegations stating: "All the money collected as rent goes to AJL. All the allegations are rubbish and things will be crystal clear in the court," Vohra told dna.