THE RAIDS on the office of online news platform NewsClick and residences of its directors by the Enforcement Directorate (ED), which continued for the third straight day Thursday, are linked to foreign remittances allegedly totalling Rs 30.51 crore, The Indian Express has learnt.
This includes a remittance classified as FDI of Rs 9.59 crore from April 2018, and another of Rs 20.92 crore, which has been shown as receipts for “export of services”, senior ED officials said.
The FDI, they said, has been shown as subscription of shares of PPK Newsclick Studio at a premium from a defunct company called Worldwide Media Holdings LLC, Delaware.
Also under scrutiny are alleged remittances from a clutch of entities: Justice & Education Fund Inc; Tricontinental Ltd Inc, USA; G Span LLC, USA; and Centro Popular Demidas of Brazil.
The largest tranche of remittances was from Justice & Education Fund Inc and totalled Rs 19.76 crore, ED officials said.
The Indian Express sent an email to Justice & Education Fund but no response was received.
ED officials said there was a claim that these payments were received for uploading “news content on People’s Dispatch Portal”, which is owned and maintained by PPK Newsclick Studio Pvt Ltd.
ED officials said the shareholders and directors/owners of the news portal, including its Editor-in-Chief Prabir Purkayastha, were being questioned on what services were “exported” to these firms for the FDI inflow.
ED officials also said that the three US firms — Justice and Education Fund; G Span and Worldwide Media Holdings — have the same office address: c/o Scali Associates, 190 Liberty Road, Crystal Lake, Illinois, USA. The relationship between Scali Associates and these firms “could not be explained”, officials said. The Indian Express contacted Scali Associates but no comment was received.
ED officials said they were also investigating Purkayastha’s links with another company, Sagrik Process Analysts Pvt Ltd.
The Indian Express tried to contact Purkayastha and his colleague Pranjal Pandey through emails, text messages and calls but did not receive a response.
On Wednesday, NewsClick had said that it cooperated with officials and will continue to do so. “If the ED and the government are truthful and follow the course of law, no wrongdoing will be found and this unfortunate event will be closed. NewsClick has nothing to hide,” it said.
It alleged that it had become a routine practice with this government to deploy government-controlled agencies to deal with those who “disagree with and criticise” it. The raids against it appear to be on the same lines, it said.
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