The CBI has booked NDTV promoters Prannoy Roy and Radhika Roy and others for allegedly violating foreign direct investment (FDI) rules in a 2007-09 investment, an allegation denied by the company.
Besides the Roys, the agency registered an FIR against then CEO Vikram Chandra as well as unidentified government officials on charges of criminal conspiracy, cheating and corruption, officials said on Wednesday.
On Wednesday, a CBI team conducted searches at Chandra's residence. Under the CBI scanner are investments made by NCBU, a General Electric company at the time, in Network PLC (NNPLC), an NDTV company incorporated in London on November 30, 2006.
The CBI has alleged that NNPLC in 2009 got approval from the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) board in violation of FDI rules.
It said NNPLC received total FDI worth USD 163.43 million and invested the amount in various NDTV subsidiaries through a web of complex transactions.
In a statement, NDTV has strongly denied the CBI's allegations.
"NDTV and its founders have full faith in India's judiciary at this crucial time and remain committed to the integrity of the company's journalism. Attempts to silence free and fair reportage through malicious and fabricated charges will not succeed. This is not about a company or individuals but about a larger battle to maintain the freedom of the press, something which India has always been renowned for," it said.
As part of "the continued persecution of free press", it said, a new CBI case has been filed about a USD 150 million investment in NDTV's non-news business by NCBU, then owned by General Electric.
"The case makes the ludicrous charge that the transaction, declared to all relevant authorities in the US and India, laundered money for unknown public servants," it said.
The FIR is an outcome of a preliminary enquiry registered by the agency in 2016, the CBI officials said.
It is alleged that during May 2004 to May 2010, NDTV floated around 32 subsidiary firms all over the world, mostly in the tax havens of Holland, the United Kingdom, Dubai, Malaysia, Mauritius etc.
The CBI said most of these companies allegedly had no business transaction and were meant for financial transactions to bring funds from abroad.Terming the transactions a "sham", the agency alleged that funds were invested by unidentified public servants through NDTV and laundered back to India through multiple layers of complex transactions and shell companies.