New Delhi, October 18: The CBI on Wednesday said it will look into the facts and circumstances mentioned in an interview of Michael Hershman, the first secret Bofors investigator of the Fairfax Group deployed by the Indian government.
“The agency has learnt of the matter pertaining to Bofors aired on a certain TV Channel containing interview of Michael Hershman. Facts and circumstances as mentioned in the interview will be looked into as per the due process by the CBI,” CBI spokesperson Abhishek Dayal said in a statement.
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) move comes a day after Republic TV’s interview with Hershman, wherein he made several revelations regarding Bofors and named some powerful politicians in India linked with the deal signed between the then Rajiv Gandhi-led government and Swedish company Bofors in 1986.
The deal for 410 howitzers was completed in March 1986.
The alleged corruption in the Bofors guns deal had created a scandal in 1989, leading to the fall of Rajiv Gandhi government. Kickbacks were alleged, but no evidence was found.
In 1986, the then Finance Minister V.P. Singh ordered an investigation. To do so, Singh got in touch with private investigation group Fairfax.
Hershman, who first found the Bofors papers, was the secret investigator of the Fairfax Group, deployed by the Indian government.
Now, a six-member Public Accounts Committee’s sub-committee on defense, headed by Biju Janata Dal MP Bhartruhari Mahtab, is looking into non-compliance of certain aspects of the Comptroller and Auditor General’s report of 1986 on the deal. (IANS)
After a case against NDTV founders had been registered, the CBI raided the residence
The raids prompted the NDTV to respond by alleging that the investigating agency is acting “under pressure” and further calling the fiasco a ‘witch-hunt’
The case has been registered by the Banking Fraud Division of the CBI alleging the NDTV founders for defrauding the ICICI Bankalong with other violations
So the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) registered a case against NDTV founders – Prannoy Roy and wife Radhika Roy- on the 5th of June, 2017. Consequently, a day after, the investigative agency also raided the residences of Prannoy Roy and his wife, along with four other premises in Delhi and Dehradun belonging to promoters. Cases have been registered against their company RRPR Holding Ltd as well as ICICI Bank officials.
The FIR has been filed by Sanjay Dutt, a former consultant at NDTV. The NDTV is also being investigated by Income Tax Department and Enforcement Directorate when it was discovered that NDTV received funds from a foreign institution but settled the account at 80% less than the actual amount received.
The case comes as a consequence of an allegation against the founders for causing over Rs. 48 crore losses to ICICI bank. They are booked under the Indian Penal Code and Prevent of Corruption Act for criminal conspiracy, cheating, and criminal misconduct.
The ICICI had given the founders’ private holding company-RRPR Holding Private Ltd-a loan of Rs 366 crore. The Roys had guaranteed their NDTV shares at a price more than the prevailing price at Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE).
The loan was closed within a year, however, the interest was waived off resulting in a loss of Rs 48 crores for the bank. The equivalent amount was moved out of the holding company’s bank account.
The FIR report explicitly states that NDTV as well as ICICI “entered into a criminal conspiracy to transfer ownership of a news company, i.e NDTV, to a shell company against banking rule and SEBI Act.”
On the basis of last year’s letter by the Enforcement Directorate to the CBI showcasing irregularities by the ICICI bank, a FIR was registered.
The NDTV responded by calling the whole incident a ‘witch-hunt’ after stating that the founders have not defaulted any loans. The media organization has called Dutt’s allegations false. The NDTV and its allies have countered this as an attack on free speech.
The NDTV issued a statement calling this whole incident a ‘witch-hunt’ and a political attack on the freedom of speech. It also argued that the CBI has no jurisdiction to investigate such matters that concern the private banks and EVEN IF there has indeed been a loss incurred. CBI, in counter, has cited the example of ‘CBI vs Ramesh Gelli’ case which was ruled in the favor of the investigating agency. CBI has the right to investigate the matter.
It is worth noting that the CBI is not just investing the loan default case but violations of SEBI guidelines and RBI rules. NDTV’s decision to address the CBI as “acting under pressure” is shameful.
Dutt has also claimed that the collateral shares that the Roys had guaranteed were never notified to stock exchanges and SEBI. SEBI has also initiated a probe.
The priority of the investigation is to explore “wrongful gain” of Rs 48 crores to the Roys and their holding company. That clearly implies how NDTV’s claim that this whole fiasco is an “agenda” is simply not true.
NDTV and allies that have been questioning the investigations must understand deeper forms of suspicion that have surrounded the transactions.
Manisha Pande, from Newslaundry, has explained with the remarkable simplicity about the essential factor that investigations are to keep in mind. So RRPR, the holding company, received Rs. 403.85 crores from a shell company- Vishwapradhan Commercial Private Ltd. Now this shell company had received this same amount from Shinano Retail as a loan. The Shinano Retail is fully owned by Reliance Industrial Investments and Holding which received this same loan from the main source Reliance Ventures Ltd, subsidiary of Reliance Ltd.
Hence, Dutt urges to find out “who is the true owner of NDTV?” by calling it, what many would agree, a Hawala (money laundering) transaction.
Manisha Pande has thus rightly pointed out the “investigation cannot start and end at NDTV.” She continues “CBI would have to probe some other important people” especially since the trail points to other noticeable direction.
It is also worth noting how NDTV had been enjoying heavenly fortunes when the UPA came to power. The company raised $417 million in different parts of the world through 20 wholly-owned subsidiaries.
Therefore, while the mainstream media and Twitterites will continue to raise and justify political factors, continuing with their blame game and bargaining, at the end of the day it is the law which is over everything. The law and justice must prevail. None of the facts point to the CBI trying to “silence the media under pressure”.
– by Saksham Narula of NewsGram. Twitter: @Saksham2394