CBI registers FCRA case against NewsClick, others

Agency conducts searches at two locations; it says company received unexplained funds, violated rules banning foreign funds for firms producing or broadcasting audio-visual news programmes

Updated - October 12, 2023 02:47 am IST

Published - October 11, 2023 10:23 am IST - NEW DELHI

NewsClick HR head Amit Chakravarty is brought to the Patiala House Courts in a case lodged under UAPA in New Delhi on October 10, 2023.

NewsClick HR head Amit Chakravarty is brought to the Patiala House Courts in a case lodged under UAPA in New Delhi on October 10, 2023. | Photo Credit: PTI

The Central Bureau of Investigation on Wednesday conducted searches on the premises of NewsClick founder Prabir Purkayastha after registering a case alleging violation of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA).

A senior official said that those named as accused in the first information report (FIR) include: PPK Newsclick Studio Private Limited and its director Mr. Purkayastha; Jason Pfetcher, manager of Worldwide Media Holdings, which has invested in NewsClick; and Shanghai-based American millionaire Neville Roy Singham whose foundation owns WMH

The CBI said searches were carried out at two locations. The move came a day after a Patiala House court sent Mr. Purkayastha, and the news portal’s human resources head, Amit Chakraborty, to 10 days of judicial custody under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) case registered by the Delhi police.

Also Read | NewsClick non-case: On the strange case of a terrorism FIR without a terrorist act

‘Unexplained funds’

“It was alleged that the said private company had received unexplained export remittance of about ₹28.46 crore through four foreign entities in violation of FCRA provisions... there was an unexplained receipt of foreign fund of about ₹9.59 crore by incorrect characterisation of the fund as Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). The director of said private company, with his close associates, had allegedly violated the provisions of FCRA,” according to the CBI.

It also alleged that the accused had violated the FCRA provisions prohibiting acceptance of foreign contribution by any company engaged in production and broadcast of audio-visual news or current affairs programme through any electronic mode and by any correspondent or columnist or writer or owner of such company.

‘Manipulating the Indian map’

According to the submissions made earlier by the Delhi police, seeking the remand of Mr. Purkayastha and Mr. Chakraborty from the court, their analysis of e-mail exchanges showed that Mr. Singham was in direct contact with the other two accused. The email exchanges allegedly showed them discussing how to create a map of India without Kashmir, depicting Arunachal Pradesh as a disputed area.

“To achieve the above objective the accused persons in the guise of foreign funds received money of more than ₹115 crore in the companies named as PPK NewsClick, GSPAN India, JJ Enterprises, Virtunet System,” said the remand copy.

Chinese telcos in the crosshairs

The police have also alleged a conspiracy to provide legal aid to Chinese telecom companies such as Xiaomi and Vivo, which are facing tax evasion cases in India.

Four Vivo executives were arrested by the Enforcement Directorate earlier this week in a money laundering case. It alleges that Vivo India remitted almost 50% (₹62,476 crore) of its sale proceeds overseas, mainly to China, to disclose huge losses in several domestically incorporated companies and thus avoid paying taxes in India.

According to the Delhi police, the accused also acted against the national interest by promoting a false narrative against India’s pharmaceutical industry and the policies of the government in conspiracy with “anti-national forces”; incited, supported, and funded the farmers’ agitation, with the objective of creating law and order problems and causing a “huge loss of several hundred crores to the Indian economy”; and published news funded by money clandestinely routed from China.

The police also alleges that Mr. Purkayastha conspired with a group named the People’s Alliance for Democracy and Secularism to sabotage the electoral process during the 2019 general election.

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