Statement by Neville Roy Singham on Newsclick funding row

In this statement, Neville Roy Singham, American millionaire, refutes allegations levelled against him in the New York Times article as well as those mentioned in the FIR filed by the Delhi Police.

October 17, 2023 03:39 pm | Updated October 18, 2023 06:51 am IST

Neville `Roy’ Singham

Neville `Roy’ Singham | Photo Credit: The Hindu Archives

As the Delhi Police named American millionaire Neville Roy Singham as one of the accused in the Newsclick terror case, he has issued a four-page rebuttal, in which he has called the NYT article misleading and innuendo-laden hit piece.

Here is the full text of Mr. Roy’s rebuttal. 

My name is Neville Roy Singham. I founded and led ThoughtWorks Inc., an IT company, for 25 years and sold it in 2017. I have been and remain solely a US citizen since birth. I currently reside in Shanghai (China).

On August 5, 2023, the New York Times (NYT) ran a misleading and innuendo-laden hit piece on me and others that, among other things, provoked a firestorm in India and inflamed the situation regarding the Indian news website portal NewsClick. Twelve days after the publication, on August 17, the Delhi Police Station Special Cell secretly prepared and issued a First Information Report (FIR). Full of defamatory allegations and factual errors, the FIR led to the interrogation of nearly 100 journalists, the detention of dozens, and the eventual arrest of two people on October 3, 2023. After the arrests, the FIR entered the public domain, the release of which is damaging to me and many others. The language used in the FIR strongly suggests that its claims were influenced by misinformation from the NYT article.

India is home to many of the world’s best journalists and writers. It has a vibrant press and media landscape. The news of the arrests and detentions deeply shocked and saddened me.

I am disappointed that this is happening in India, a country close to Sri Lanka, the ancestral home of my father, Archibald W. Singham (1932–1991), a participant in and historian of the Non-Aligned Movement. I write this as someone who dearly loves India, having had a long-standing relationship with the country and its people, from my first visit to Mumbai in 1964, at the age of 11, to the years I spent in the Indian software industry. Beginning in the early 2000s, I spent considerable time in India, opening ThoughtWorks offices across India, including in Bangalore, Pune, Chennai, Coimbatore, Delhi, and Hyderabad. Along with many brilliant Indian colleagues, I helped establish many conferences and projects that advanced the Indian software industry. I remain proud that we collectively built world-class, advanced, Agile software development centers in India – the first in the Global South. We successfully highlight the talents of India globally.

The NYT intentionally chose not to publish all the factual rebuttals that I provided to them on July 22, 2023, prior to their publication date. The NYT has done a great disservice to the cause to press freedom. For this reason, I have decided to publicly address some of these points that I raised to, and were ignored by, the NYT. I categorically deny and repudiate all claims of illegality and impropriety and wish to set the record straight.

First, regarding the provenance of the funds invested in NewsClick.

I urge all those following these events to read the full statement by Jason Pfetcher, manager of Worldwide Media Holdings LLC, the US-based organization that made an investment in NewsClick. The article published in The Hindu can be found here. It covers the details of the investment in NewsClick and categorically repudiates the false allegations surrounding the source of the funds that were sent to India.

Second, on the provenance of my funds and a rejection of the false claims that I have received funds from any government or political party, including China and the Communist Party of China.

In 2017, ThoughtWorks was sold to Apax Partners, a global private equity firm. As the majority shareholder, I received substantial proceeds from this sale. I donated a significant share of this to US charities. I am keenly aware of my extreme financial privilege and for this reason I decided to donate much of my personal wealth to non-profits and causes that advance the interests of the world’s poor.

I do not have other sources of funds besides my personal savings, revenue from the sale of the company, and the subsequent income from my personal investments. Other than ThoughtWorks – which had some government clients over the years, including the US, UK, and Australian governments (but not including China) – I have never received funding from any government or political party. I file a comprehensive tax return in the US every year and have always hired the world’s top accounting and tax firms to carefully review all aspects of my financial affairs. The provenance of all my money is without doubt.

I was shocked to see the absurd attempt to connect me to the Chinese telecom companies, Xiaomi and Vivo, in the FIR. I have no knowledge of their activities in India. I have never had contact with, directly or indirectly received funding from, nor worked on behalf of these companies.

Third, on the issue of me working for or taking instructions from any government or political party.

First, let me be very clear. I do not work for, nor take instruction from, nor receive funding from the Propaganda Department or any division of the Chinese government or the Communist Party of China, as the FIR claims and is suggested in the NYT article. In fact, I do not take orders from any government or political party in the world.

I am not now and have never been a member of the Communist Party of China. In fact, Chinese citizens are the only people eligible for membership, a requirement of the constitution adopted by the 8th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in 1956.

I have spent considerable periods of my life in several countries, including Jamaica, the United States, the United Kingdom, India, China, Brazil, and South Africa. I have visited over 60 countries. I have had the great privilege of meeting and knowing working-class leaders and people in many of these countries. I also had the opportunity to meet a wide range of intellectuals, journalists, and leaders of all types, including public health officials, university leaders, government functionaries and leaders, political leaders, and CEOs. Nothing from my diverse life experience suggests I am controlled by others. Rather this experience has reinforced my commitment to and care for all the world’s peoples and to improve cross-country solidarity and collaboration.

Fourth, on the accusation that I have broken any laws and my vigilance towards legal compliance.

I reject the allegation of fraudulent infusion of funds through a “complex web of several entities” as mentioned in the FIR and in the NYT article.

I also reject any innuendo that I violate any Indian or US law by working with banned organizations. There is just no proof of such accusations because they are untrue.

Having run a multinational company (ThoughtWorks) for many years, I learned the vital importance of carefully following the laws of all the countries in which we conducted business. My record as chairman speaks for itself in this period. International philanthropy is a complex area involving deep knowledge of many laws and tax systems in the US and abroad. It requires expert advice and donor structures developed by top legal, tax, and accounting firms. I have acquired and followed such advice throughout my philanthropic efforts.

The consequence of this strict adherence to laws requires more than one legal entity and many detailed compliance structures. For example, there are, in fact, different types of non-profit organizations in the US, and each must be set up with independent boards. Additionally, I have learned that good internal compliance measures should be established and to always seek outside professional services firms for advice, compliance assistance, and filing of tax and other reports. US entities and citizens must vigorously follow many regulations, including those of the US Office of Foreign Assets Control.

My goal was to successfully donate money. Being careless or not strictly adhering to the laws around legally proscribed banned organizations would destroy all the objectives of making donations and endanger all recipients of philanthropic donations.

Fifth, on my beliefs and attitudes towards giving away my money.

The probity and transparency of my political beliefs span many decades, beginning with my teenage years. Like many in my generation, I could not accept the discrepancy between the wealth of a few versus the misery of millions. In those formative years, I began to believe that everyone, including those born with any type of privilege, should try to spend at least part of their life building a world based on the dignity of the common people. I decided that at my age and with my extreme privilege, the best thing I could do was to give away most of my money in my lifetime.

Like most philanthropists with a high net worth, I chose to give money to organizations and causes whose work I generally like, respect, and admire. These organizations have, in turn, donated money to, or invested funds in, various US and foreign nonprofits. US nonprofits file publicly available 990s, including disclosing their investments and grantmaking activities. These nonprofits are controlled by their respective boards and officers. Although I have been known to share my personal views with many people, including people involved in the organizations, I do not control these organizations and have respected and upheld the integrity of those that receive funds.

I believe that the wealth of society is created collectively. Given the large amount of money I made from the sale, my personal attitude is and was that I should consider myself a “trustee” of this money. My task would be to try to ensure it benefits the interests of the poor and working peoples of the world, and not seek publicity for doing so.

Sixth, on the innuendos regarding my continued professional work.

A core element of my philanthropic goal is to assist projects dedicated to systematically and permanently eliminating world poverty, in which hunger plays an essential part. While working with farmer cooperatives, it became clear that, despite being the core producers of food that nourishes the world, many farmers, and their families in large parts of the Global South are often among the hungriest. A key question is how to change the portion of the total world food chain that can be equitably redirected to the original producers. This needs a comprehensive approach that addresses the social, economic, and cultural aspects of rural life and is not a pretext for eliminating rural life.

China is a large country paying attention to eliminating absolute poverty and cultivating rural revitalization. It is also a large importer of food products. Because of my accumulated business knowledge, I dedicated my time here to assisting Global South cooperatives, especially in Africa and Latin America, in achieving better and fairer prices, advancing the technical capacities of cooperatives, and encouraging scientific and agricultural exchanges.

I am under no illusion that there is a singular path to development for the Global South. I believe that all countries in the Global South can learn from each other.

Seventh, on the claim that an open-source map project sought to undermine India’s territorial integrity.

In 2020, I was presented with an opportunity to sponsor a free and open-source software project that would allow anyone to create their own equal-area projection maps. While there are hundreds of ongoing international border disputes, including for example, between Canada and the United States, the goal was always to allow citizens of each country to produce maps that are consistent with its own laws and reflect their sovereign counties’ national interests.

Neville Roy Singham

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