Explained: What ED Probe Has Revealed About Chinese Funding In Indian Media Portal
A money laundering case against media portal Newsclick has brought to light a Chinese funding connection.
Newsclick is being investigated by Enforcement Directorate (ED) on charges of money laundering. The probe unearthed the connection of the media portal with Neville Roy Singham, a businessman of Sri Lankan-Cuban descent, associated with the propaganda arm of the Communist Party of China (CPC).
Singham has been identified as the key source of Rs 38 crore foreign funding that PPK Newsclick Studio Pvt Ltd received between 2018 and 2021. Most of the foreign funding received by Newsclick was shown as 'proceeds from export of services'.
These services, the probe revealed, include “specific jobs" like promoting China's footprint in Africa, where the communist country has attracted allegations of high handedness and predatory capitalism; and justifying the country's crackdown against big businessmen like Alibaba's Jack Ma.
The agency is now looking into surrogate funding by the CPC to build a ‘media narrative’ in India that supports Chinese interests. The probe has also hinted at the link of Singham with a senior Indian politician.
As per an Economic Times report, the ED probe has also established that part of the funding received from the foreign sources was channeled to left-wing activists like Gautam Navlakha. Navlakha is one of the accused in the Elgar Parishad case. He was reportedly recently questioned by the agency in jail about his association with Newsclick's founder and editor-in-chief Prabir Purkayastha.
The report quoted ED sources as saying that their investigations have revealed that Newsclick received funding through Justice and Education Fund Inc, US; GSPAN LLC, US; Tricontinental Ltd Inc, USA — all located at the same address, apart from Centro Popular Demidas, Brazil.
They also revealed that their searches at the premises of the shareholders of PPK Newsclick in February 2021 showed regular exchange of emails in connection with the Communist Party of China (CPC).
The ED is also reportedly probing payments of large sums of money to journalists in return of their services of rallying around a particular side on different issues.
Newsclick founder Purkayastha has been questioned about the details of the 'services' exported for which he received about Rs 28.5 crore between 2018 and 2021. He was also asked how crores in foreign funding started to flow into the company within a few months of the launch. The probe also revealed a payment of Rs 1.55 crore to an electrician and Purkayastha has been asked about the nature of the work the electrician performed.
He has also been questioned about payment of money to Bappaditya Sinha, a CPM member who maintains Twitter handles of some party leaders.
Fearing arrest, Purkayastha had approached Delhi High Court seeking anticipatory bail. The court had granted him protection from any coercive action by ED till 29 July when the case is listed for hearing.
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