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NDTV rubbishes CBI claim of loan defraud

MUMBAI: In a strong rebuttal to the Central Bureau of Investigation’s (CBI) claim of loan defraud, news broadcaster NDTV has claimed that promoters Prannoy Roy and Radhika Roy have repaid the loan availed from the ICCI Bank.

The company has also produced the acknowledgement receipt from ICICI Bank dated 7 August 2009 confirming the loan repayment.

The CBI had on Monday conducted raids across four locations in Delhi and Dehradun including Roy’s home on allegations of defrauding ICICI Bank of Rs 48 crore.

Radhika Roy Prannoy Roy (RRPR), the promoter company, had availed the loan.

NDTV, which had earlier issued a statement alleging witch hunt by the central government, released an updated statement saying that the CBI raids are a political attack without any basis.

The company further stated that the CBI action is based on a shoddy complaint filed by a disgruntled former consultant at NDTV.

“It is shocking that the CBI conducted searches on the NDTV offices and residence of the promoters without even conducting a preliminary enquiry. This is a blatant political attack on the freedom of the press as sources confirm that under pressure, the CBI has been compelled to file an FIR based on a shoddy complaint by a disgruntled former consultant at NDTV called Sanjay Dutt, who has been making false allegations and filing cases in courts of law with these false allegations. So far, he has not obtained a single order from any of these courts,” NDTV said in a statement.

“Legal analysts are astounded that where courts have rejected giving any order in all these years, the CBI conducts raids based on what is a private complaint,” NDTV further stated.

The allegation appears to be for a loan which has been repaid by Prannoy and Radhika Roy more than seven years ago, the statement went on to clarify.

NDTV also pointed out that the government has not taken any action against big industrialists whose defaults run into several thousand crores of rupees.

“Even though lakhs and crores of rupees of dues have not been paid by several industrialists and no criminal case has yet been registered against any of them by the CBI, the CBI has chosen not only to register an FIR, but also conduct a search for a loan which has been duly repaid to ICICI Bank. Moreover, ICICI is a private bank,” NDTV said.

The broadcaster also brushed aside allegations that no disclosure was made to capital markets regulator SEBI and other regulatory authorities.

“The allegation that no disclosure was made to SEBI and other regulatory authorities is not only incorrect and false, but also does not clothe the CBI with any power to register cases and search, which further amplifies the fact that the search by the CBI is only a witch-hunt against independent media,” NDTV said.

“NDTV and its promoters have never defaulted on any loan to ICICI or any other bank. We adhere to the highest levels of integrity and independence. It is clearly the independence and fearlessness of NDTV’s team that the ruling party’s politicians cannot stomach and the CBI raid is merely another attempt at silencing the media,” the company said.

“No matter how much the politicians attack us, we will not give up the fight for freedom and the independence of media in India,” NDTV asserted.

Denying NDTV’s ‘witch-hunting’ charge, Minister of Information & Broadcasting M Venkaiah Naidu said that ‘law is taking its own course’. “This government doesn’t believe in interfering. They (CBI) must have some information, that’s why they might have taken steps,” Naidu told ANI.

Meanwhile, the Editors Guild of India has expressed its deep concern over the raids conducted by the CBI on the offices of NDTV and its promoters.

“Entry of police and other agencies into media offices is a serious matter. NDTV, in various statements, has denied any wrong doing and termed the raids as ‘stepping up the concerted harassment’ of the news channel and an attempt to ‘undermine democracy and free speech’ and ‘silence the media’,” guild president Raj Chengappa said in a release.

“While the Editors Guild maintains that no individual or institution is above the law, the Guild condemns any attempt to muzzle the media and calls upon the CBI to follow the due process of law and ensure there is no interference in the free functioning of news operations,” the guild said.

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