The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has registered a fresh case against NDTV Ltd, its promoters Prannoy Roy, Radhika Roy, former CEO Vikramaditya Chandra, and a few income tax officials on charges of money laundering under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 .
The CBI in its FIR has alleged that between 2004 and 2010, NDTV “floated” around 32 subsidiary firms in tax haven such as Holland, UK, Dubai, Malaysia, Mauritius. These firms, according to the CBI, had “no business transaction and they were meant only for financial transactions to bring funds from abroad”.
The CBI has alleged that these are “sham transactions” as the funds were “invested by unknown public servants through NDTV Ltd and later laundered back to lndia through multiple layers of complex transactions and shell companies.”
“Proceeds of corruption of unknown public servants was invested through NDTV Ltd,” said the CBI FIR.
According to the CBI, NDTV Network PLC (NNPLC), London, got approval from the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIBP) to bring in Foreign Direct lnvestment (FDl) worth $130-160 million allegedly in violation of the FDI norms. The CBI FIR said that till September 2009, NNPLC London received total FDI worth $163.43 million. This, the CBI has alleged was invested in various subsidiaries of NDTV through “a web of complex transaction”.
The CBI has alleged that NNPLC, London received $20 million from Fuse Media Holding LP in March 2007 and $100 million from Jefferies International in May 2007. “ln this transaction Jefferies lnternational had received $5.5 Million as commission,” said the CBI FIR.
Out of the total investment received by NNPLC, it transferred Rs 1,939 crore to various subsidiary companies of NDTV Group.
The CBI also said that NDTV International Holding BV was incorporated only to raise $150 million from a subsidiary of General Electric USA. This investment, the CBI said was routed to NDTV’s subsidiaries in India through firms in Mauritius and UK.
The aforementioned investment of $100 million against step-up convertible bonds were repaid to the respective investors by the NDTV in ratio by making a payment of $72.40 million, in November, 2008. Similarly, the investment of $150 million by NBCU who had acquired 26% share holding in NNPLC has been settled by buying back the share of NDTV Network International Holding BV, Netherlands from NBCU after making the payment of $12,472,750 to Universal Studio BV on October 26, 2009, “said the CBI FIR.
Meanwhile, NDTV released a statement in reply to the FIR, saying that this is an “attempt to silence free and fair reportage through malicious and fabricated charges”. “Despite a series of cases in which the investigation is deliberately stalled, agencies have found no evidence of any corruption by NDTV. Prannoy and Radhika Roy, the founders of NDTV, as also the company, have cooperated in all matters filed against them,” the statement read.
The statement also said that the sham transactions mentioned in the FIR have been declared to all relevant authorities in the US and India by the company.
In 2017, the CBI had registered a case against the Roys, a private company and others for causing alleged losses to a private bank. The case reportedly relates to a bank loan default of Rs 48 crore taken from ICICI Bank in 2008. According to the FIR, the loan defaulted by NDTV’s Prannoy Roy is for a company named RRPR Holdings Private Limited. Following this, the Enforcement Directorate also filed a case against the Roys in the matter.
“NDTV and ICICI entered into a criminal conspiracy to transfer ownership of a news company (NDTV) to a shell company, against banking rules and the SEBI Act,” the CBI had said in its FIR.
On June 18 this year, market regulator Sebi barred the Roys and their holding firm RRPR Holdings from the markets for two years and also imposed a fine of Rs 12 lakh. It also restrained the couple from holding any board/top management positions in the firm during this period. The order came after the regulator examined multiple disclosure lapses by NDTV and noted non-compliance with the Substantial Acquisition of Shares and Takeover (SAST) Regulations.
Earlier this month, Prannoy and Radhika Roy were stopped from boarding an international flight from Mumbai after the authorities said they cannot leave the country without informing them in advance.