THE MUMBAI crime branch on Monday said they arrested Vinay Tripathi, a former Hansa Research employee, alleging that he played a key role in what the Mumbai police is terming the “TRP scam”. Police believe that Tripathi, arrested from Mirzapur in UP, was the one who paid 21-year-old Vishal Bhandari — who was the first arrest in the case — for fudging TRP’s.
The police also recorded the statements of two senior Hansa officials in connection with the scam. Hansa is the agency that measures Television Rating Points (TRP) of various channels for Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) that determines advertisement revenues for TV channels.
A crime branch team that had gone to UP looking for Tripathi arrested him on Monday. According to the police, Tripathi, a Malad resident, has worked with Hansa for four years as a relationship manager.
“As soon as he came to know about the arrest of Bhandari, he fled,” said an officer.The crime branch, while seeking extension of custody of the four arrested accused, had on Friday mentioned in their remand report that as per Hansa’s internal investigation in June, it was Tripathi who had asked Bhandari to get at least five households to watch a particular news channel for two hours daily.
As per the remand, Tripathi paid Bhandari Rs 1,000 — Rs 2,00 for each of the five households for watching a particular channel — as commission to be paid to the households.
Bhandari himself was paid Rs 5,000.
At Bhandari’s home, a tenement in a chawl in the Chincholi area of Malad (west), The Indian Express found only his grandmother. A neighbour requesting anonymity said, “He is just a 21-year-old who kept to himself. He was one of the few youngsters from our area who can speak English. He was in third year BCom. He had joined just a few months back. How could he carry this out on his own? His father Ved works as a driver and is generally out all day.”
The police had found two bar-o-meters installed at Bhandari’s residence after his arrest.
“We are hoping that the questioning of Tiwari will help them clarify which channels were involved in rigging TRP’s,” the official added. The police are still on the lookout for two others in the case. The team lead by API Sachin Vaze, in charge of the Crime Investigation Unit (CIU) of the Mumbai crime branch, further recorded the statements of two senior officials from Hansa research agency. “We recorded the supplementary statement of the complainant in the case, Nitin Deokar, who is deputy general manager with Hansa in addition to the Hansa CEO’s statement,” the official said.
The police also seized four bank accounts related to Fakt Marathi and Box Cinemas — two of the three channels named by Mumbai police as allegedly rigging TRPs. “After scrutinizing the bank details, we found there was more money in these accounts than what could be substantiated prima facie. A forensic auditing of these accounts will be carried out to ascertain the money flow,” an officer said. A police team is already studying the bank account details of Republic to see if there are any transactions related to the TRP scam being probed by them.
The Mumbai police has also roped in the Economic Offences Wing (EOW) to study these account details and also look into any possible incidents of money laundering. The police had said that they were also writing to BARC to check if there was any unusual activity in the TRP’s of India Today in the Malad area where Bhandari was the relationship manager. So far none of the five households have named India Today during their interrogation by the police.