Days after being prevented from leaving India, the trouble for NDTV’s promoters, Prannoy Roy and wife Radhika Roy mounted further as the federal investigating agency CBI filed fresh case them and their promoted company, NDTV Limited. Also named in the fresh case are the company’s former CEO Vikram Chandra and a few income tax officials on charges of money laundering under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.
According to the FIR filed by the CBI, NDTV allegedly floated as many as 32 subsidiary companies in tax haven countries such as Mauritius, Malaysia, Dubai and Holland among others. The FIR went on to allege that the newly created firms never carried out any business transactions and ‘they were meant only for financial transactions to bring funds from abroad.’
The CBI, according to a report by Indian Express, also alleged that these were ‘sham transactions’ since the funds were ‘invested by unknown public servants through NDTV Ltd and later laundered back to India through multiple layers of complex transactions and shell companies.’
The CBI FIR added that ‘proceeds of corruption of unknown public servants was invested through NDTV Ltd.’ Bar and Bench website quoted the FIR as stating, “M/s NDTV Ltd. through its promoters viz. Sh. Prannoy Roy and Mrs. Radhika Roy, Sh. KVL Naryanan Rao (since expired), Sh. Vikramaditya Chandra had entered into criminal conspiracy with unknown public servants with the object of bringing tainted money of unknown public servants through a web of complex transactions through the FDI route.”
Reacting to the CBI FIR, NDTV issued a statement calling it an attempt to persecute free press. The statement by NDTV read, “As part of the continued persecution of free press, a new CBI case has been filed about a $150 million investment in NDTV’s non-news business by NBCU, then owned by General Electric, a massive American conglomerate. The case makes the ludicrous charge that the transaction, declared to all relevant authorities in the US and India, laundered money for unknown public servants”
NDTV said that ‘attempts to silence free and fair reportage through malicious and fabricated charges will not succeed.’ It added, “This is not about a company or individuals but about a larger battle to maintain the freedom of the press, something which India has always been renowned for.”