This explosive information, contained in the filings with Supreme Court, perused by Moneylife, shows that the CBI has been investigating the NDTV group right since 2008, but the investigation seems to have been suppressed
In an affidavit filed in the Supreme Court, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) has said it has received information from the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) that NDTV Studios, an Indian resident company, received Rs387.62 crore from NDTV (Media) Mauritius Ltd in 2008 and a small portion of the funds was used for investment in six new subsidiaries in India until 2009. In addition, in 2010, a major portion of the remaining funds, were invested in NDTV Multimedia (Mauritius) Ltd and further, in two existing wholly-owned subsidiaries in the Netherlands and UK through another subsidiary NDTV Worldwide Mauritius Ltd. Thereafter, NDTV Studios and its six subsidiaries were merged with NDTV thereby creating doubts about the purpose of their setting up as well as the sources of funds for NDTV (Media) Mauritius and the need to set up various companies in Mauritius.
This explosive information, contained in the Court filings perused by Moneylife, shows that the CBI has been investigating the NDTV group right since 2008, but the investigation seems to have been suppressed. Meanwhile the group has sued an investor (Sanjay Dutt) as well as senior journalist (Madhu Kishwar) for defamation, since they asked questions about its finances.
Interestingly, the details about the CBI’s findings have come into the public domain by way of an affidavit filed by the ED in the Delhi High Court, in writ petition No984 of 2015 by Quantum Securities versus the Enforcement Directorate.
In its affidavit before the Court, the ED has further admitted that it had received a complaint from Income Tax (I-T) Commissioner RK Shrivastava in November 2011, as well as complaints from several others regarding NDTV finances. Yet, ED seems to have opened a formal investigation only in January 2013.
What is shocking is that I-T Commissioner Shrivastava has been subject to untold harassment and allegations as a result of his inquiry, which now appears to be confirmed by CBI, ED as well as the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). Yet, all these authorities have watched the harassment in silence, for several years now. They also remained silent when Ms Kishwar was sued by NDTV.
What is further astonishing is the silence of the Securities & Exchange Board of India (SEBI) and the two national stock exchanges, National Stock Exchange (NSE) and Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) whose job it is to ensure that information about these inquiries is available to public shareholders of NDTV Ltd.
Instead, barring the recent disclosure last Friday, the company has constantly denied or remained silent about various inquiries against it. It remains to be seen whether the Exchange authorities will continue to remain aloof as the first-line regulator.
The Enforcement Directorate’s submission to the Court further states: “many of the transactions relating to overseas investments/disinvestments are not reported to the RBI, which appears to be in contravention of the provisions of FEMA 1999.”
It goes on to make, what is clearly a sensational disclosure in the next paragraph. It says, “It is alleged that between 2006-09 NDTV has set up a number of subsidiaries registered outside India. One such company NDTV Networks Plc, London, has raised about £150 million in 2005-06. This entire amount was invested in the subsidiary of NDTV Ltd in Mauritius, which further invested in subsidiaries registered in India. It is found that NDTV-related companies have received Rs648.81 crore from the period 2006 to 2011. It is noticed that M/s NDTV had set up step down subsidiaries at Mauritius, Netherlands, Sweden and UK. A maze of step-down subsidiaries was created by way of closure, merger etc. It is alleged that about 294 companies with investors/shareholders having surnames like Chidambaram are running from the same premises as NDTV Network Plc London.