ED arrests Surat BJP leader in PMLA case

ED arrests Surat BJP leader in PMLA case linked to fudged newspaper circulation data

Representative image. Credit: iStock.

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has arrested a Surat-based BJP leader in a money laundering case linked to alleged irregularities and fudging of circulation figures of his two dailies published in Gujarati and English, the central probe agency said on Friday.

It said PVS Sarma, director of Sanket Media Pvt Ltd, was arrested on Thursday under provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) in the case "related to cheating and forgery".

A court in Ahmedabad sent him to ED custody till December 2, it said.

The agency said it booked Sarma, his media company and others after studying a Gujarat Police FIR that was filed against him by the Income-tax department.

Sanket Media Pvt Ltd, it said, prints and publishes 'Satyam Times' newspaper in Gujarati and English.  

Probe found, the ED said in a statement, that "though the circulation of the newspapers was shown at 23,500 and 6,000-6,300 copies daily for the Gujarati and English editions respectively, actual circulation was only around 300-600 and 0-290."

"Inflated figures of circulation were shown to attract more advertising agencies including the Directorate of Advertisement and Visual Publicity (DAVP) and other private advertising companies to publish their advertisements in the said newspaper," it claimed.

The ED said Sarma, using his media company, has "indulged in conspiracy and cheated the government and private advertising companies and, by doing so, had received Rs 2.70 crore towards advertisement". 

"For this purpose, bogus purchase of raw materials was shown by making false entries in the books of accounts from bogus companies and by creating bogus documents and making its usage as true," the ED said.

The Income-tax department had raided the premises of Sarma in October on charges of alleged tax evasion.

Prior to this action, Sarma had alleged that some I-T officials, jewellers and chartered accountants were involved in money laundering during the demonetisation exercise in 2016.

Upset over the action, Sarma sat on the road near his apartment as a mark of protest.

"I have nothing to hide. Officials are searching my house. They are scared and trying to intimidate me so that I don't disclose names of erring I-T officers and others who were involved in the scam. I have proof and I will disclose it soon," Sarma had told reporters.

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