An investigation by The New York Timeshas alleged that Indian news portal NewsClick is among organisations funded by a network tied to US millionaire Neville Roy Singham for pushing Chinese propaganda. The NYT claim against the portal was first made by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in 2021 when it searched NewsClick’s premises as part of a probe into foreign remittances allegedly received.
“The authorities in India raided a news organization tied to Mr Singham during a crackdown on the press, accusing it of having ties to the Chinese government but offering no proof… In New Delhi, corporate filings show, Mr. Singham’s network financed a news site, NewsClick, that sprinkled its coverage with Chinese government talking points,” the NYT reported.
Responding to the report, NewsClick founder Prabir Purkayastha told The Indian Express: “These are not new allegations. They have been made in the past. We will respond to them in the appropriate forum, i.e. the court, as the matter is sub judice.”
The ED, which had searched NewsClick premises in February 2021, claimed its probe showed that foreign remittances, allegedly totalling over Rs 77 crore, had been received by NewsClick between 2018 and 2021.Explained | How a US tech baron helped push Chinese propaganda worldwide: What NYT’s investigation found
The remittances, ED claimed, came in the form of subscriptions to shares of PPK Newsclick Studio, which owns the news portal, and for providing certain services.
The remittances, ED said, came from companies such as Worldwide Media Holdings LLC, Delaware; Justice & Education Fund Inc; Tricontinental Ltd Inc, USA; GSPAN LLC, USA; and Centro Popular De Midas, Brazil.Also Read | China, Cong linked to ‘anti-India umbilical cord’: BJP targets Oppn, news website citing NYT report
The ED claimed that these companies were linked to Singham, who it said was “a contact person of CPC, China”. The agency stated in its report: “…the scrutiny of digital evidence seized during the search has revealed that a well-planned scheme was devised by Sh. Prabir Purkayastha along with… Shri Jason Pfetcher and Shri Neville Roy Singham to infuse opaque foreign funds in PPK Newsclick Studio Pvt Ltd,”Advertisement
“As part of the scheme, a company M/s Worldwide Media Holding LLC, USA was incorporated by Mr. Jason Pfetcher (a close associate of Neville Roy Singham) with 100% equity of People Support Foundation (Jodie Evans, wife of Neville Roy Singham is a director) in November 2017 and the company, after transferring funds of Rs 9.59 crore to PPK Newsclick Studio Pvt. Ltd in April 2018, has stopped any further business activity,” the ED report said.
On remittances from other companies, the ED report said, “M/s PPK Newsclick Studio Pvt. Ltd. has claimed receiving export remittance of Rs. 76.84 crore, Rs. 1.61 crore, Rs. 26.98 lakh and Rs. 2.03 lakh from Justice & Education Fund Inc. USA, The Tricontinental Ltd. Inc. USA, GSPAN LLC USA and Centro Popular De Midas, Brazil, respectively since March 2018 to date. However, during the course of search, no evidence for exporting services to above refer to entities were found or produced.”
During its probe, ED claimed to have found an email from Singham to Purkayastha and Tricontinental executive director Vijay Prashad among others on January 26, 2020, where subtitling of a Chinese propaganda film is being talked about.Advertisement
The ED has not yet filed a prosecution complaint in the case even though a provisional attachment order issued by the agencies on the assets of Purkayastha have been confirmed by the Adjudicating Authority. Emails to Tricontinental, GSPAN LLC and Justice and Education Fund for comment did not elicit a response.Most Read 1 Gadar 2 box office collection day 4: Sunny Deol film records biggest Monday collections of all time, nets a total of Rs 173 cr 2 Bigg Boss OTT 2 Finale Live Updates: Elvish Yadav wins Salman Khan’s show, Abhishek Malhan shares message from hospital 3 Happy Independence Day 2023: Wishes Images, Whatsapp Messages, Status, Quotes, and Photos 4 OMG 2 box office collection day 4: Pankaj Tripathi-Akshay Kumar film delivers better Monday than opening Friday, earns Rs 55.1 cr 5 Jailer box office collection Day 5: Rajinikanth film set to cross Rs 350-crore mark worldwide on Independence Day
In its report, the NYT alleged that through “a tangle of nonprofit groups and shell companies”, Singham “works closely with the Chinese government media machine and is financing its propaganda ”.
It said Singham, 69, operates out of Shanghai, where one outlet in his network is co-producing a YouTube show financed in part by the city’s propaganda department.Also ReadNarendra Modi Independence Day Speech Live Updates: India now identified ...Govt SOP for Judges: Do not name officials for court panelsShivaji statue vandalised in Goa, police initiate inquiry‘Will return to Red Fort next year’: In Independence Day speech, PM Modi ...
In a response to the NYT, Singham denied the allegations. “I categorically deny and repudiate any suggestion that I am a member of, work for, take orders from, or follow instructions of any political party or government or their representatives. I am solely guided by my beliefs, which are my long-held personal views,” the NYT quoted him saying.© The Indian Express (P) Ltd