CBI searches NDTV promoters' premises

CBI searches NDTV promoters' premises

The CBI on Monday searched the residence of NDTV promoters Prannoy Roy and his wife Radhika on the allegation of “laundering benami funds” in favour of a party to get “covert control” of the news channel.

This resulted in a loss of Rs 48 crore to the ICICI bank and shareholders of the company that owned the channel, the CBI charged in its FIR.

The NDTV dubbed the move a “witch-hunt” and “another attempt at silencing the media”, claiming that the CBI has stepped up “the concerted harassment” of the channel and its promoters based on “the same old endless false accusations” by a disgruntled former employee.

The government and the CBI, however, dismissed the NDTV’s counter charge. Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Minister M Venkaiah Naidu said there was no political interference in the CBI raids on Roy’s properties and it’s the law which was taking its course.

The searches took place at two locations in Delhi and one each in Dehradun and Mussoorie. A CBI team was conducting raids in Dehradun, CBI SP Sujit Kumar said.

The CBI registered a case against the Roy couple, RRPR Holdings Pvt limited, NDTV India Ltd, and “unknown officials” of the ICICI Bank, charging them with criminal conspiracy, cheating and corruption.

The agency accused the ICICI Bank of reportedly “conniving, committing fraud and entering into a conspiracy with the promoters of NDTV in facilitating transfer of ownership” of a news broadcasting company to “a khokha/shell company”. According to the investigating agency, the RRPR Holdings had taken a loan of Rs 500 crore from India Bulls Private Limited to purchase 20% shares of the NDTV from the public. The RRPR Holdings also took a loan of Rs 375 crore at the rate of 19% per annum from the ICICI Bank to repay the loan taken from the India Bulls.

The promoters of the NDTV pledged their entire shareholding in the NDTV as a collateral to the ICICI for this loan, but did not report it to the Securities and Exchange Board of India stock exchanges and the I&B ministry, according to the CBI. The CBI said such concealment was done as a creation of more than 61% voting capital which was in violation of 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% of the paid-up share capital of that company or 30% of its own paid-up share capital and reserves, whichever is less,” the Act stipulates.

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