New Delhi : The CBI searched on Monday the offices and homes of NDTV founder Prannoy Roy over allegations of defrauding a bank, a move the news broadcaster denounced as a “witchhunt” to muzzle free speech.
Federal agents named Roy, his wife Radhika and a private company linked to NDTV- RRPR holding private ltd. among others in a criminal case for allegedly causing losses to ICICI Bank.
In 2008, ICICI bank gave the private holding company a loan pf rs. 366 crore on personal guarantees of the Roys who pledged their NDTV shares that were valued more than the prevailing price at the Bombay Stock Exchange.
Within a Year, ICICI settled for foreclosure of the loan, agreeing to a part waiver of interest that allegedly resulted in a loss of 48 crore for the bank, the CBI’s formal investigations launched last week said. The Roys moved out an equivalent amount from RRPR’s bank account, it alleged.
” NDTV and ICICI entered into a criminal conspiracy to transfer ownership of a news company (NDTV) to a shell company, against banking rules, SEBI Act,” the CBI said in its FIR.
ICICI bank refused to comment.
The Raids come at a time when the opposition has accused the government of selectively targeting charities and media groups as part of a campaign to control free speech and dissent.
This year, India slipped three places to 136th in the World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders, which highlighted concerns that Hindu nationalist were ” trying to purge all manifestations of anti national thought.”
Neither of the Roy couple was available for comment but NDTV called the raids “concerted harassment.. based on the same old endless false accusations”.
” We will now succumb to these attempts to blatantly undermine democracy and fresh speech in India,” the news broadcaster said in a statement.
The Editors Guild of India expressed ” deep concern” over the raids.
” Entry of Police and other agencies into the media offices is a serious matter,” the Guide said in a statement.
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