NDTV Calls CBI Raids A Witch-Hunt Against Independent Media, Denies Allegations

Team SoOLEGAL 6 Jun 2017 1:05am

NDTV Calls CBI Raids A Witch-Hunt Against Independent Media, Denies Allegations

In an updated statement on the CBI raids, NDTV has denied all allegations against itself and its promoters, and has termed the raid as an attempt to silence the media.

“NDTV and its promoters have never defaulted on any loan to ICICI or any other bank. We adhere to the highest levels of integrity and independence. It is clearly the independence and fearlessness of NDTV’s team that the ruling party’s politicians cannot stomach and the CBI raid is merely another attempt at silencing the media. No matter how much the politicians attack us – We will not give up the fight for freedom and the independence of media in India,” the release states.

The FIR, it says, has been filed on “a shoddy complaint by a disgruntled former consultant at NDTV called Sanjay Dutt”. It further alleges that searches were conducted in the NDTV offices and residence of the promoters without even conducting a preliminary enquiry, and goes on to call the episode a “blatant political attack on the freedom of the press”.

Calling the raid a “witch-hunt against independent media”, the statement clarifies that the search was conducted for a loan that had already been repaid to ICICI Bank, and points out that no such action has been taken against the other industrialists who have not paid back lakhs and crores of rupees. This loan, it claims, was repaid by Mr. Prannoy Roy and Ms. Radhika Roy, the founders of New Delhi Television, more than seven years ago. The statement also contains a receipt of such repayment.

statement was also issued by the Editors Guild of India, expressing “deep concern” over the raids, and stating, “Entry of police and other agencies into the media offices is a serious matter… While the Editors Guild maintains that no individual or institution is above the law, the Guild condemns any attempt to muzzle the media and calls upon the CBI to follow the due process of law and ensure there is no interference in the free functioning of news operations.”

The allegations

The FIR against the NDTV founders, whose houses were raided on Monday by the CBI, has been based on an accusation of “laundering funds” of Rs 403.85 crore to create an interest in favour of a shell company. The complaint accuses the duo and their company RRPR Holdings of “committing fraud” and causing willful loss of over Rs 48 crores to ICICI Bank and the shareholders of NDTV.

In the complaint, Mr. Dutt, who is the Director of Quantum Services Private Limited, has stated that in 2008-2009, NDTV, along with RRPR Holding Limited, decided to buy back 1, 26,90,257 shares representing 20% of the voting share capital from the stock market, and made a public offer of Rs 438.98 per share. To pay for this buy back, NDTV took a loan of around Rs 500 crores from India Bulls Financial Services Limited.

In order to repay India Bulls, NDTV approached ICICI for a loan of Rs. 375 crores in October, 2008. The complaint alleges that this loan was granted against the entire holdings of the two promoters of NDTV Limited. This, it says, is illegal as the total value of the shares pledged by the NDTV promoters was 61%, and banks are not supposed to hold equity of more than 30% in any company.

The complaint further alleges that there was no official disclosure of the collateral provided, and that the loan money was rerouted through multiple shell companies. It therefore demands action against “unknown officers” of the ICICI Bank as well, invoking provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act. Such complaint is maintainable after a Supreme Court verdict rendered in February last year, wherein the Court had held that Chairman, Directors and Officers of Global Trust Bank Ltd. (a private bank before its amalgamation with the Oriental Bank of Commerce), can be said to be public servants for the purposes of their prosecution in respect of offences punishable under Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.

Read the FIR here.

Source: LiveLaw

Tagged: NDTV   CBI  
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