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Court summons Gandhis over ‘funds misuse’ ‘India’s Enron’ fraud trial to conclude in July

NEW DELHI, June 26, (AFP): An Indian court Thursday summoned Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, leaders of the defeated Congress party, over allegations that they misused funds of a newspaper once run by the family.

The mother-son duo of the famed Nehru- Gandhi dynasty are due to appear in court next month after Subramanian Swamy, a politician from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, filed a petition accusing them of misusing funds of the National Herald newspaper which closed down in 2008. The paper was launched by India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Sonia Gandhi, widow of Nehru’s grandson Rajiv, later became the chief patron of the trust that ran the publication. “I have found prima facie evidence against all the accused.

The court has directed them to appear before it on Aug 7,” said presiding judge Gomati Manocha, according to reports. The newspaper, first published from the northern city of Lucknow in 1938, played a prominent role promoting nationalist sentiment before India’s independence from Britain in 1947. But dogged by bad management, poor circulation and falling revenue, Congress president Sonia Gandhi finally decided to close the publication. “Once they appear they will have to take bail and deposit passport,” Swamy tweeted Thursday.

Swamy first filed the case in 2001, blaming the Congress top bosses of illegally acquiring the newspaper’s assets by floating a new private company, Young Indian, using their party funds. He alleged that the Gandhis aimed to grab property worth $332 million owned by the newspaper’s publishing firm, Associated Journals, using fraudulent papers. Both Gandhis are directors of the new company, owning 76 per cent stake in it and the remaining shares are owned by four other Congress members, who have also been summoned to court.

Meanwhile, a judge trying 10 people over one of India’s biggest ever corporate fraud scandals at IT group Satyam is to reach a verdict at the end of next month, a report said Thursday. The former chairman of the outsourcing giant, B. Ramalinga Raju, and other executives including his brother have been on trial since 2010 for conspiracy, cheating and forgery. The scandal at the Hyderabad-based firm is known as “India’s Enron” after the US energy giant that collapsed in 2001 in the wake of massive false-accounting revelations. Raju admitted in a letter of confession in 2009 — since retracted — that he had overstated profits for years and inflated the company’s balance sheet by more than $1 billion

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