Accusing them of bank fraud, CBI raids Roys of NDTV, channel says attack on press freedom

In its FIR, the CBI accused NDTV founders, RRPR Holding Pvt Ltd and unknown officials of ICICI Bank of criminal conspiracy, cheating and corruption.

Written by Rahul Tripathi | New Delhi | Updated: June 6, 2017 4:46 am
 NDTV, Prannoy Roy, CBI raid at Prannoy Roy house, press freedom, ICICI bank, NDTV founders, CBI raid-NDTV, india news, indian express NDTV’s promoter Prannoy Roy

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Monday conducted searches at the residences of NDTV’s promoter Prannoy Roy for allegedly causing a loss of Rs 48 crore to ICICI Bank on a loan of Rs 350 crore between 2008-10. The agency further accused Roy, his wife Radhika Roy, private company RRPR Holding Pvt Ltd and officials of ICICI Bank of allegedly concealing share transaction from the SEBI, stock exchange and Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.

Calling the raids a “blatant attack on the freedom of the press,” NDTV, in a statement this evening, said that the CBI had filed its FIR based on a “shoddy complaint” by a “disgruntled” former NDTV consultant who has not obtained a “single order from the courts.”

In its FIR, the CBI accused NDTV founders, RRPR Holding Pvt Ltd and unknown officials of ICICI Bank of criminal conspiracy, cheating and corruption. The CBI said RRPR Holdings had allegedly taken a loan of Rs 500 crore from India Bulls Private Limited to purchase 20 per cent shares of NDTV from the public in 2008-09.

NDTV, CBI raid, NDTV raids, Prannoy Roy, ICICI Bank CBI raids NDTV: CBI sleuths at NDTV co-founder Prannoy Roy’s office in New Delhi. Express Photo/Tashi Tobgyal

The CBI alleged that RRPR Holdings took a loan of Rs 375 crore at the rate of 19 per cent per annum from ICICI Bank to repay the borrowing from India Bulls. The promoters of NDTV pledged their entire shareholding in NDTV as a collateral to ICICI Bank for this loan, the CBI alleged. This pledging of shares was not reported to the SEBI, stock exchanges and the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, according to the CBI.

Such concealment was allegedly done because a creation of more than 61 per cent voting capital for ICICI Bank was in violation of section 19 (2) of the Banking Regulation Act. It should not be more than 30 per cent, the agency said in its FIR. An interest waiver of 10 per cent was given by ICICI Bank.

According to the Banking Regulation Act, “No banking company shall hold shares in any company, whether as pledgee, mortgagee or absolute owner, of an amount exceeding 30 per cent of the paid-up share capital of that company or 30 per cent of its own paid-up share capital and reserves, whichever is less.”

In a statement released in the evening, NDTV said: “It is shocking that the CBI conducted searches on the NDTV offices and residence of the promoters without even conducting a preliminary enquiry. This is a blatant political attack on the freedom of the press…the CBI has been compelled to file an FIR based on a shoddy complaint by a disgruntled former consultant at NDTV called Sanjay Dutt, who has been making false allegations and filing cases in courts of law with these false allegations. So far, he has not obtained a single order from any of these courts.”

“The allegation appears to be for a loan which has been repaid by Prannoy Roy and Radhika Roy more than seven years ago. The allegation that no disclosure was made to SEBI and other regulatory authorities is not only incorrect and false but also does not cloth the CBI with any power to register cases and search which further amplifies the fact that the search by the CBI is only a witch-hunt against independent media,” it said.

“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 statement added.

The FIR said that a loss of Rs 48 crore was caused to ICICI Bank and consequent gain by RRPR.

The searches took place at two locations in Delhi and one each in Dehradun and Mussoorie including the farmhouse in Dehradun and property owned by Roys in Mussoorie. The CBI spokesperson strongly denied the witch-hunt allegations levelled by NDTV and said the agency was following procedures laid in the law.

There was no political interference in the raids, Union Information and Broadcasting Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu said. “If somebody does something wrong simply because they belong to media, you cannot expect the government to keep quiet,” Naidu said. “The CBI might have received some information. That is why they have taken action.”

The Congress condemned the CBI raid. “We feel it is an assault on media freedom and attack on the fourth pillar of the democracy…This is also an attempt to create an atmosphere of fear and terror among media houses,” senior Congress leader Ajay Maken said at an AICC press conference.

He said the raid also revealed the Government’s pick-and-choose approach. Maken recalled that the Government had told Parliament in December that public sector banks had written off Rs 1.54 lakh crore of bad loans. He said the ratio of NPAs to gross domestic product has doubled in the last three years.

“The BJP and the central government should say how many private defaulters were raided like this….Vijay Mallya, who defaulted over Rs 9000 crore, is sitting in London and watching the Champions Trophy. There is no action against them. He was allowed to leave the country. And on the other hand, there is an attempt to create an atmosphere of fear among media houses,” he added.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal called the raids an attempt to “silence independent and anti-establishment voices”. So did West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee who called it “disturbing.”

Former Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari too condemned the raids and called it a direct assault of freedom of the press.

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    rishi
    Jun 6, 2017 at 10:16 pm
    Considering that Congress Governments And Its Henchmen(NDTV Included!) always lambasted and treated every member of RSS and their families as criminals........ .....would it be alright now for RSS-BJPCombineGovernment to treat every congressi and their henchmen(NDTV included !) to be treated as criminals in full public view....... .......would it not be a logical and natural response to the pain and miseries of millions of RSS members and their families who suffered for decades at the behest of the most destructive colonial legacy that an almost-fatally-wounded ancient congress has been exposed as at best , having been busted in its entirety by Modi in one shot !
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      rishi
      Jun 6, 2017 at 10:07 pm
      NDTV could never stomach the growing strength, populaity and admiration of the leaders of a fully home-grown RSS-BJP Combine. NDTV has always been known as a part of the "(Corruption)Chalta Hai" Gang where everyone from the peon to the president shamelessly ended up doing "jee hujoori" to an italian housewife.....NDTV is utterly weak and timid in their journalism as their motive was "easy life of easy money" and not public interest as exposed in their obsessive and irrational opposition to a Nationalist RSS-BJP-Combine-Led NDA Govt. which is exposing all these thugs of an almost-fatally-wounded ancient-congress regime. The fact that they chose to use ONLY the english language(they have nothing else) as their gateway to the power corridors of yore duly exposes them as being culturally colonial which gives enough reason to the govt. which is fully accountable to the billion-plus people on matters of corruption of the past that led to miseries and pain to millions of families.
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        Subhash Chaturvedi
        Jun 6, 2017 at 6:35 pm
        Troll army is at it again !!! Troll army is quiet when Vijay Mallya enjoys Champions Trophy despite being declared wilful defaulter...Here , despite a doubtful complaint , troll army is trying its hard to pronounce NDTV guilty ...Press freedom , what press freedom , what cons ution ...all bunkum ..we , the nation , this army seems to say !!!!!
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          C S
          Jun 6, 2017 at 3:11 pm
          The wrong doings are not clear. It is said that ICICI Bank lost Rs 48 cr. Has the Bank made a complaint of cheating by NDTV? At 19 percent, the rate of interest charged by the bank, on the loan taken by NDTV, was usurious! So, one wonders whether Rs 48 cr was a concession given to the borrower, considering the high interest rate charged. If there was any wrong doing by NDTV it should be investigated and action taken. But when it has paid back the loan seven years ago, to raid the promoters, smacks of vendetta, more so when no such action was taken against the huge defaulters owing the banks tens of thousands of crores of rupees. The banks, stressed ets have doubled in the last three years and reportedly, in the region of Rs 9 lakh crores.
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            Harish
            Jun 6, 2017 at 2:35 pm
            They got interest free loan because they are close to Sonia.
            Reply
            1. J
              Joe
              Jun 6, 2017 at 12:10 pm
              Nice move, slap cases against all their opponents and people who question them, so that they are discredited publicly and they can just brush aside all the questions now as vendetta. At the same time all the scams like vyapam and accusations against the rajasthan CM etc...are dealt with in a more hush hush legal manner. They have made election funding from corporates opaque. Legal cases take forever so this way the government can claim to be corruption free and spin their narratives unchallenged by 2019 elections.
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                seenivasan
                Jun 6, 2017 at 11:28 am
                So Fourth pillars can cheat if caught then freedom is in trouble what a non sense ? This fellows may have taken money from ISI that also included in the investigation
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                  S Venkataraman
                  Jun 6, 2017 at 8:24 am
                  This is a case of going against the law of the land. Both NDTV and the bank are at fault. There is loss to the bank in the form of interest waiver and corresponding gain to RRPR. CBI has a case. In the name of press freedom this very channel put national security at stake by live telecasting of security operation. Their statement betrays their political leanings. They are not angels. Sambit Patra stood his ground when he was asked to leave the debate by Nidhi Razdan many times over when he mentioned that this channel had an agenda. She called other channels as glorified Doordarshan. He said that he would not leave and wanted to expose this channel. Now that this channel had made it a personal political battle they have to face the consequences. They are not virtue incarnate. They are neither independent nor transparent in view of their own admission that they did not want to air the video cal for azadi in JNU. They know that freedom is not absolute and yet go for it.
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                    countk99
                    Jun 6, 2017 at 9:08 am
                    Well said., they can fool the people all the time.
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                    1. M
                      Murthy
                      Jun 6, 2017 at 9:45 am
                      Very good analysis, Venkat Brother. India and Indians have this handicap that our Media is dominated by these "Courtiers" and "Pseudo-seculars". As a reader of some Western Media, I find, they have a more balanced presentation of analysis to their Public. In the West, left or right or center, they agree on FACTS. Not so in Indian media.
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                        rishi
                        Jun 8, 2017 at 11:54 pm
                        The channel must know....it is made up of just two people.......the Govt. is a billion times bigger in all its legitimacy......as it is accountable to a billion-plus citizens on all matters of governance.... cluding corruption and those driven by greed and corruption.......NDTV founders stand disgraced even in the eyes of the "honest beggars" on the streets who suffer due to such economic imbalances that are created by crooked creatures that the roys are accused of !
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