CBI raids NDTV co-founder Prannoy Roy: Case registered against him: Govt rejects ‘witch-hunt’ charge

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Monday conducted searches on the premises of NDTV founder Prannoy Roy and his wife Radhika Roy in New Delhi and in Dehradun, in connection with a case of alleged ₹48-crore loss to ICICI Bank.

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 has registered a case against Mr. Roy, his wife and their company RRPR Holding Pvt. Ltd. for allegedly causing loss to ICICI Bank,” a CBI official said. The searches were carried out at the RRPR office and Mr. Roy’s residence in Greater Kailash-I.

RRPR Holdings had allegedly taken a loan of Rs 500 crore from India Bulls Private Limited to purchase 20 percent shares of NDTV from the public.The CBI has alleged that RRPR Holdings took a loan of Rs 375 crore at the rate of 19 percent per annum from ICICI Bank to repay the borrowing from India Bulls.

The promoters of NDTV pledged their entire shareholding in NDTV as a collateral to ICICI for this loan, it alleged. This pledging of shares was not reported to the SEBI, stock exchanges and the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, according to the CBI.

Such concealment was allegedly done as a creation of more than 61 percent voting capital which was in violation of Section 19 (2) of the Banking Regulation Act. It should not be more than 30 percent, the agency said. An interest waiver of 10 percent was given by ICICI.

According to the Act, “No banking company shall hold shares in any company, whether as pledgee, mortgagee or absolute owner, of an amount exceeding thirty percent. Of the paid-up share capital of that company or thirty percent. Of its own paid-up share capital and reserves, whichever is less.”

“Provided that any banking company which is on the date of the commencement of this Act holding any shares in contravention of the provisions of this sub-section shall not be liable to any penalty therefore if it reports the matter without delay to the Reserve Bank and if it brings its holding of shares into conformity with the said provisions within such period, not exceeding two years, as the Reserve Bank may think fit to allow,” it said.

Prannoy Lal Roy is an Indian journalist and media personality. He is the co-founder and executive co-chairperson of New Delhi Television (NDTV)along with his wife Radhika Roy.

Roy started his career in 1988 with televised coverage of India’s general elections. On Doordarshan, he hosted news programs “The News Tonight” and “The World This Week” (which were nominated as one of India’s 5 best television programs since independence). He also started India’s first 24-hour English news channel NDTV 24×7.

A senior CBI official said the rationale behind registering the case related to ICICI Bank against Mr. Roy and others is the Supreme Court directive in the Global Trust Bank case in February last year, in which court said chiefs of private banks should also be treated as public servants under the Prevention of Corruption Act. Embezzlement of public money kept in private bank would, therefore, be covered.

When asked about the CBI raids, Information and Broadcast Minister Venkaiah Naidu told reporters that there is ‘no witch-hunting’ and the law would take its own course. “This government doesn’t believe in interfering. They (CBI) must have some information, that’s why they might have taken steps. Law is taking its own course, there is no witch-hunting at all,” Naidu said.

Meanwhile, Rajya Sabha MP Dr Subramanian Swamy, who last year wrote a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, accusing NDTV of money laundering, told sources that fear of law is necessary.

“You cannot distinguish between media people, politicians, doctors, etc. If you have broken the law then you have broken the law. We have to develop respect for the law, and for that, we have to make it clear that nobody is above the law. Fear of the law is necessary and it will be applied no matter who you are,” Swamy said.

“When all these high-profile people are raided, the common man feels that if such people can be the subject to prosecution then what will happen to them. People will automatically become honest,” he added.

Swamy had earlier urged the PM to direct the CBI to file a case against NDTV under Prevention of Corruption Act.

When asked about the CBI raids, Information and Broadcast Minister Venkaiah Naidu told reporters that there is ‘no witch-hunting’ and the law would take its own course. “This government doesn’t believe in interfering. They (CBI) must have some information, that’s why they might have taken steps. Law is taking its own course, there is no witch-hunting at all,” Naidu said.

Naidu said there was no political interference in the CBI raids on Roy’s properties and the law was taking its course.”If somebody does something wrong simply because they belong to media, you cannot expect the government to keep quiet,” Naidu told reporters.

The officials were doing their duty and there is no political interference in this, he said, adding that media was free and independent in the country.”The CBI might have received some information. That is why they have taken action,” Naidu said.

In November 2015, the ED had slapped a Rs2,030 crore notice on NDTV for allegedly violating FEMA provisions for routing huge funds through the channel’s foreign units. The notice served to promoters Prannoy Roy, his wife Radhika Roy and senior executive KVL Narayan Rao stated that NDTV had violated RBI provisions on fund transfers.

Earlier this year, in March, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) rejected NDTV’s application to compound from the Rs 2,030 crore notice issued by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) under the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA).

In a statement, NDTV said: “This morning, the CBI stepped up the concerted harassment of NDTV and its promoters based on the same old endless false accusations. NDTV and its promoters will fight tirelessly against this witch-hunt by multiple agencies. We will not succumb to these attempts to blatantly undermine democracy and free speech in India. We have one message to those who are trying to destroy the institutions of India and everything it stands for: we will fight for our country and overcome these forces.”

On Twitter, NDTV Managing Editor Sreenivsan Jain said: “Message is clear: any independent voices in media will be bullied and shut down. Black day.”

NDTV’s Editorial Director Sonia Singh tweeted: “Stand fully with Prannoy & Radhika Roy,the most honest,decent & courageous people I know. We will not be cowed down by false charges.”

Executive Editor Nidhi Razdan said: “A message to those in the media who are still independent and do their job by fearlessly asking questions. We won’t be intimidated.”

The Enforcement Directorate and income tax (I-T) authorities were investigating NDTV since 2014.

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