A purported news clipping floating across social media platforms claims that Congress president Sonia Gandhi is the 12th richest politician in the world.
कितना लूटा है मेरे देश को…
अब तो जागो मेरे देशवासियों,!
दुनिया के सबसे 12 धनी नेताओं में
शामिल #सोनिया गांधी,
कुल संपत्ति 2 अरब डॉलर,
मतलब 1 खरब रुपए से भी ज्यादा,!!!
— नवजीवन कर्मकार 1️⃣K 🚩 (@NabajibanKarma1) September 24, 2020
Similar claim viral since 2018
A Facebook page I Support Modi Ji and BJP shared a newspaper clip on September 27, 2018, according to which Sonia Gandhi is “fourth richest in the world”. Affixed to the clip is a caption that poses the question – “अम्बानी अदानी ने लाखों लोगो को रोजगार दिए कारखाने खोले तब अमीर बने. पर सोनिआ गाँधी कैसे अमीर बानी? (Ambani Adani became rich after giving jobs to lakhs of people and opening factories. But how did Sonia Gandhi manage to become rich?)” The post was shared nearly 4,000 times at the time of writing this article.
The claim about Gandhi’s net worth was circulated using another narrative by several individual users on Facebook who attempted to take a jibe at the politician – “सोनिया गाँधी विश्व की चौथी सबसेअमीर महिला है…और ये पैसे उसने “मनरेगा” में मेहनत-मजदूरी कर के कमाये है (Sonia Gandhi is the fourth richest woman in the world and she earned this money by working hard under MGNREGA.)”
What is the truth?
Alt News searched the newspaper cutting circulated by I Support Modi Ji and BJP using keywords from the report and found that it was the same article published by Dainik Jagran on March 14, 2012.
Social media rumours claimed that Gandhi was either the fourth richest “person” or the fourth richest “woman” in the world. However, the Dainik Jagran article said that Gandhi was the fourth richest “politician” in the world. According to the report, “American website Business Insider made this claim. As per the site, Sonia Gandhi has a net worth of between US$ 2-19 billion.”
Alt News looked for the Business Insider story mentioned in all of these reports and discovered a March 2, 2012 report titled – ‘Meet The 23 Richest Politicians In The World’. Gandhi was fourth in the list, with the article claiming that her net worth was between US$ 2-19 billion.
Is Sonia Gandhi indeed the world’s fourth-richest politician?
The Business Insider story hyperlinked a website named ‘World’s Luxury Guide’ as its source. It also said that there are some disputes about Gandhi’s actual net worth and that the ‘National Election Watch’ put the same at US$200,000 (approximately Rs 1.35 crores at that time).
1. ‘World’s Luxury Guide’
Not only was this website unheard of, but the name ‘World’s Luxury Guide’ itself suggested its unreliability. When Alt News attempted to access the URL provided by Business Insider, we were redirected to a “Not Found” page. Accessing the website’s archived pages revealed that it has been taken down for over three years.
A screenshot the ‘World’s Luxury Guide’ article that lists the world’s richest politicians is provided below. Its achieved version can be accessed here.
While Business Insider had provided ‘World’s Luxury Guide’ as the source, ‘World’s Luxury Guide’ had provided – opensecret.org, forbes.com, bloomberg.com, wikipedia.org and guardian.co.uk – as its sources.
Forbes had published an article in 2011 titled – ‘India’s 100 Richest’ – which does not include Gandhi’s name. In 2012, The Guardian had published a report on the world’s richest leaders, however, it too did not include Gandhi., Alt News back-searched till 2010 on the website of Bloomberg but found nothing of relevance. The remaining attribution provided by Business Insider – OpenSecret – has never written any report on the Congress president.
It was thus evident that Business Insider (and ‘World’s Luxury Guide’) was not a source that could be trusted.
2. ‘National Election Watch’
Business Insider mentioned in its article that the ‘National Election Watch’ put Sonia Gandhi’s net worth at US$200,000 (approximately Rs 1.37 crore in 2012).
Accessing this link redirected us to a report that provided the assets declared by Sonia Gandhi before 2004, 2009 and 2014 Lok Sabha elections. The latest figures (2014) put her net worth at over Rs 9.28 crore. As the Business Insider article was published in 2012, it must have referred to the figures Gandhi had disclosed in 2009 – Rs 1.37 crore. This matched the “disputed net worth” claims on Business Insider.
A compendium published by the Association for Democratic Reform (ADR) in 2012 had also put Gandhi’s assets at Rs 1.37 crore.
In 2014, India Today provided copies of Gandhi’s nomination papers before the Rae Bareli Lok Sabha elections, according to which she declared total movable assets to the tune of Rs 2.82 crore.
The evidence up till now suggests a massive difference between Gandhi’s declared net worth and the figure provided by Business Insider (and ‘World’s Luxury Guide’).
On November 29, 2013, Huffington Post had also published a report on the richest politicians in the world, placing Sonia Gandhi in the 12th position. However, her name was subsequently removed from the story as the information’s source, as clarified later by the media outlet, was “called into question.”
In an article by India Today published on December 2, 2013, it found that Huffington Post’s claims about Gandhi’s net worth were based on a report published by a website called Celebrity Net Worth which routinely writes on celebrity finances.
According to this website, “She (Sonia Gandhi) personally states her wealth to be between $200,000 and $500,000, but several sources including OpenSecrets.org and Business Insider have estimated that Sonia’s actual wealth could be as low as $2 billion and might be as high as $19 billion.”
Celebrity Net Worth had quoted Business Insider as one of its sources which has been busted earlier in this report. Each of its articles also includes a disclaimer at the end which claims that the numbers published by the website are “most accurate and up to date net worth data you will find anywhere on the internet.”
Ironically in the “Terms and Conditions” section, the website relieves itself of accountability for the information it publishes – “Neither we nor any third parties provide any warranty or guarantee as to the accuracy, timeliness, performance, completeness or suitability of the information and materials found or offered on this website for any particular purpose. ”
This indicates that the content on the website cannot be completely trusted. Alt News further looked for other sources that might have disclosed Gandhi’s net worth between US$ 2 to 19 billion, however, there weren’t any. Subsequently, the sources provided earlier in this article suggest the figure to be contrastingly lower than the amount being claimed.
The rumours currently viral on social media are based on an eight-year-old misreport that is being circulated as a recent event. As revealed through the course of this article, there is no conclusive evidence or data that proves Sonia Gandhi’s net worth is between US$ 2 billion to 19 billion, which is higher than the net worth of Gautam Adani and the Queen of England, and almost as much as the fifth richest woman in the world, Laurene Powell Jobs.
[This article was updated on September 26, 2020.]