A portion of a nine-storey building in Mumbai's tony Bandra area, valued Rs 16.38 crore, has been attached by the Enforcement Directorate in connection with its money-laundering probe against the Congress-party promoted Associated Journals Limited (AJL).
The federal probe agency said it has issued a provisional order, under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, to freeze "part" of the asset and has issued notices to AJL and its CMD and veteran Congress leader Moti Lal Vora.
The AJL is controlled by senior Congress leaders, including members of the Gandhi family. The group runs the National Herald newspaper.
The nine-floor building has two basements and a total built-up area of 15,000 sq metres, it said, adding its total value is Rs120 crore.
The building is located at plot no 2, survey no 341, near Kala Nagar, EPF office, Bandra (East).
The agency alleged that the accused in this case, that includes former Haryana chief minister and Congress leader Bhupinder Singh Hooda and Vora, "used the proceeds of crime" in the form of a plot allotted "illegally" to AJL in Panchkula and pledged it to avail loan from the Syndicate Bank branch on Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg in Delhi to construct this building in Bandra.
"Thus, the said asset at Mumbai that germinated out of the proceeds of crime has been attached to the extent of Rs16.38 crore. Further investigation is going on," the agency said.
The Panchkula plot has already been attached by the ED, and Hooda and Vora have been questioned by it in the case. The plot at C-17, Sector-6 was allotted to AJL first in 1982 by the Haryana government.
But the same was resumed back by the estate officer of the Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA) by an order in October 1992 as AJL did not comply with the conditions of allotment letter, ED had said.
"However, Hooda blatantly misused his official position and dishonestly allotted the said plot afresh in the guise of reallotment to the AJL at original rates plus interest in violation of necessary conditions and policy of HUDA by an order of August 28, 2005 for Rs 59,39,200," it had charged.
The actual value of the property is about Rs 64.93 crore, it said.
ED has charged that Hooda, as the then CM, caused wrongful loss to HUDA and wrongful gain to AJL by ignoring legal opinion and recommendations of HUDA officers and financial commissioner and principal secretary, Town and Country Planning.
The agency also said its probe found that Hooda "granted undue extensions thrice to AJL for construction of the said plot and after acquisition projected it as untainted property and further acquired loans from the bank by way of mortgaging the same from time to time".
The CBI also filed a charge sheet before a Panchkula court on December 2018 and named Vora and Hooda in connection with the alleged irregularities in the case.
ED had filed a criminal case in the Panchkula plot allotment instance in 2016 based on a CBI FIR, which in turn was at the request of the BJP government of Haryana, and the criminal FIRs filed by the Haryana vigilance bureau.