The Economic Offences Wing of the Delhi Police has issued letters rogatory (LR) to U.S. authorities, requesting "certain financial" information about five entities associated with US-based businessman Neville Roy Singham.
This request has been sent as the online news portal NewsClick allegedly received a foreign direct investment of Rs 77 crore from these entities.
The Enforcement Directorate, after conducting raids on NewsClick's premises in February 2021, discovered that the portal allegedly received foreign remittances amounting to over Rs 77 crore between the years 2018 and 2021.
Funds were received from several entities including Worldwide Media Holdings LLC from Delaware, Justice & Education Fund Inc, Tricontinental Ltd Inc and G Span LLC, both from the USA, and Centro Popular Demidas from Brazil. The Enforcement Directorate alleges that these companies are associated with Singham, who they identify as a liaison for the Communist Party of China.
The Economic Offences Wing (EOW) filed a First Information Report (FIR) on 26 August 2020, citing IPC Sections 406 (criminal breach of trust), 420 (cheating), and 120B (criminal conspiracy).
It said that “M/s. PPK NewsClick Studio Pvt. Ltd”, had received foreign direct investment of Rs 9.59 crore from M/s.Worldwide Media Holdings LLC, USA, during the financial year 2018-19 which was made by “greatly overvaluing the shares of the company to avoid the alleged cap of 26% FDI in a digital news website”.
The FIR mentioned several issues, including that the petitioner company, which owns the digital portal, had violated the Foreign Direct Investment regulations and other national laws, resulting in financial loss to the government treasury.
The EOW has sent LRs to the US for details on financial transactions from M/S Worldwide Media Holdings LLC, USA, Support Foundation, Justice and Education Fund, M/S GSPAN LLC, The Tricontinental Ltd to M/s. PPK NewsClick Studio Pvt. Ltd, Indian Express reported citing a source.
“In LR sent last month, the investigation officer has asked specific questions, including about the investors of the companies and their source,” a source was quoted as saying in the IE report.
The investigation team showed their questions to their seniors at Delhi Police headquarters and legal experts before sending the LR, another source told IE.
“So far, the investigation team has found that a company M/s Worldwide Media Holding LLC, USA was incorporated by Jason Pfetcher, a close associate of Singham with 100% equity of People Support Foundation (Jodie Evans, wife of Singham is a director) in November, 2017. They have received a reply from Pfetcher through emails,” the source said.
Seeking to quash an FIR registered by the EOW, NewsClick had on November 7 told the Delhi High Court that the entire case was malafide.
Appearing for the company, senior advocate Kapil Sibal had argued before a single-judge bench of Justice Saurabh Banerjee.
“What is the loss to the government exchequer here? I have brought in the money. I have paid salaries; these are all banking transactions and not non-banking. How is an offence under Sections 420 and 406 (IPC) made out? Who have I cheated and what is the breach of trust? The investor has given the money, but he has not filed any complaint. Nobody has said there is a breach of trust… It is a commercial transaction. Has the GOI given me any money which I have siphoned off? This is nothing but pure malafide,” Sibal had said.
An appeal from Swarajya
At Swarajya, we rely on our readers' support through subscriptions to sustain our media platform. Unlike larger conglomerates, we are unable to relentlessly chase advertising money — our model is largely built on your patronage.
Your support has never been more crucial. We work tirelessly to deliver 10-15 high-quality articles daily, ensuring you receive insightful content from 7 AM to 10 PM.
If you believe India's story has to be articulated in a way it has never been done before without shrugging it off, become a patron (or) subscribe now for ₹̶2̶4̶0̶0̶ ₹1999 and get 12 print issues, unlimited digital access for 1 year, a special India that is Bharat T-shirt (Offer ends soon).
We are counting on you!