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ED probes media portal’s funding from businessman ‘linked’ to China regime

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The Enforcement Directorate’s investigation into a money laundering case against media portal Newsclick and its promoters has turned the spotlight on their financial dealings with Neville Roy Singham, a businessman of Sri Lankan-Cuban descent whom the investigators have identified as the key source of Rs 38 crore that PPK Newsclick Studio Pvt Ltd received between 2018 and 2021 from abroad.

Sources in the agency, who have been mapping the flow of funds to the media outlet, alleged that Singham was associated with the propaganda arm of the Communist Party of China (CPC).

ISD ने फरवरी में भी NewsClick को निम्न वीडियो में किया था Exposed.

They also claimed that the probe has established that part of the money Newsclisck allegedly received from foreign sources went to activists such as Gautam Navlakha, one of the accused in the Elgar Parishad case. The anti-money laundering agency recently interrogated Navlakha in jail about his association with Newsclick’s founder and editor-in-chief Prabir Purkayastha.
Most of the money received by the portal has been shown as proceeds from “export of services”.

When contacted by TOI, Purkayastha denied the allegations about Singham being a front for CPC and his outlet’s links with the Chinese regime. He said Singham is an American citizen who launched and ran a software company in the US before selling it for around $700-800 million. “All our funds are from legitimate sources and well-known foundations in the US as per RBI guidelines,” Purkayastha said.

ED sources said their investigations have shown the media portal received funds from Justice and Education Fund Inc, US; GSPAN LLC, US; Tricontinental Ltd Inc, USA — all located at the same address — and Centro Popular Demidas, Brazil.
ED sources said the agency’s searches at the premises of shareholders of PPK Newsclick in February this year had thrown up regular exchanges of emails in connection with the Communist Party of China (CPC), a charge denied by Newsclick editor-in-chief Prabir Purkayastha.

“If they have anything against us, let them file all these facts in the chargesheet before the court. We are ready to face trial and respond to all those charges,” said the Newsclick founder, who recently successfully petitioned the court to restrain ED from taking any coercive action against him.He expressed his inability to comment on ED’s claim that Singham has been working out of China, but said that it was possible that the businessman had located himself in that country during the pandemic because he found it safer.

ED sources said the payments to Newsclick were linked to “specific jobs” like sprucing up China’s role in Africa, where it has attracted charges of high-handedness and predatory capitalism, and defending the Communist regime’s crackdown on Jack Ma, the promoter of online commerce giant Alibaba

They said the agency is also investigating payments of large sums to journalists for any irregularities. Besides, Purkayastha has been asked about payment of money to one Bappaditya Sinha, a CPM member who maintains Twitter handles of some party leaders. When asked, Purkayastha acknowledged Newsclick’s links with Sinha, but said Sinha was paid for software services he provided.

“There is nothing wrong about it,” he said. In addition to ED, other agencies are looking into the ‘China angle’ in the case, specifically into alleged surrogate funding by the CPC to build a ‘media narrative’ in India that suits Beijing’s interests. The probe seems set to extend to Singham’s links with a senior politician.

During his questioning by ED officials, Purkayastha was asked to provide details of services exported by his company, for which it had received about Rs 28.5 crore (between 2018 and 2021). He has also been asked to explain how funds running into crores had started flowing from abroad into Newsclick within a few months of the launch of the company, sources added.

While trailing financial transactions, the agency came across one payment of Rs 1.55 crore to an electrician and Purkayastha has been asked to provide information on the “nature of work” the latter executed.

Purkayastha said the government had sent income tax, the economic offences wing of the Delhi Police and the ED behind them, probably because they are not pro-government. “All of them have the same set of questions regarding the source of our funds and people associated with us,” he said.

He defended the company’s share valued at more than Rs 11,000 each as “fair assessment” of the company, the valuation for which was conducted professionally, as is the case with any startup.

Fearing arrest, Newsclick’s editor-in-chief had approached the Delhi high court seeking anticipatory bail. The court has given him protection from any ‘coercive action’ by the ED till July 29 when the case is listed for hearing.

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