TRP Scam: 'Suspicious transaction' between Hansa and Republic TV under SIT scanner

Updated: 27 October, 2020 17:20 IST | Faizan Khan | Mumbai

Cops say preliminary forensic audit shows exchange of Rs 32 lakh from channel to agency, claim it is crucial to probe

Republic CFO Shiva Subramaniyam Sundaram and Arnab Goswami
Republic CFO Shiva Subramaniyam Sundaram and Arnab Goswami

In a major twist in the TRP scam, the Special Investigation Team (SIT) of the Mumbai Crime Branch is now investigating a suspicious monetary transaction between Hansa Vision India Pvt Ltd, the complainant in the case, and Republic TV which has been accused of buying Television Rating Points (TRP). Meanwhile, top investors of the channel have been summoned for questioning due to suspicion about the investment.

Assistant Police Inspector Sachin Vaze, who is part of the SIT, said they have received a preliminary forensic audit report that shows a suspicious transaction of Rs 32 lakh between Hansa group and Republic TV.

"The monetary transaction between Republic TV and the Hansa group is very crucial for the investigation," said a senior Crime Branch officer.

Some of the TRP scam accused leave the Esplanade court at Azad Maidan after a hearing on October 26. Pic/Suresh Karkera
Some of the TRP scam accused leave the Esplanade court at Azad Maidan after a hearing on October 26. Pic/Suresh Karkera

Republic Chief Financial Officer Shiva Subramaniyam Sundaram has confirmed to the SIT about the transaction, which is there in the bank statements of Republic TV. The officers have asked Republic TV to submit the details of the transaction. However, Hansa group's director Narsihan Krishna Swami alias Shekhar, who was questioned by the SIT, has denied any monetary transaction.

Over the past two days, Crime Branch teams conducted raids on top investors of Republic TV in Kolkata, West Bengal, and Rajkot, Gujarat, as the forensic audit suggested suspicious investment in the channel. "Suspicion has been raised on five companies of Republic investors in Kolkata and Rajkot. Summons have been issued to their owners and directors to appear before the investigating officer on October 30," an officer said.

The officer said they suspect a possibility of money laundering in the case.

Meanwhile, Umesh Mishra, one of the accused in the TRP scam, got bail after he agreed to become a witness in the case, said an officer. The Chief Metropolitan Magistrate court, while granting bail to Mishra, said, "The investigating officer did not object to his bail application. It is the contention of the prosecution that the accused, Umesh, is ready to become the witness."

A key accused, Abhishek Kolawade, who surrendered before the SIT, has been sent to police custody for two days. The SIT have recovered several call recordings of Kolawade and other accused where he can be heard explaining them how to visit households having barometers and pay them to watch specific news channels.

The Crime Branch, for the first time one record, said that they have found no evidence against the India Today Group which was initially named in the FIR.

No payment to Republic TV from Hansa Research or vice versa

Hansa Research categorically stated that it has had no business dealings with Republic TV and no payment has been made to the channel nor received from the channel. In a statement, the Crime Branch spokesperson investigating the TRP scam has alleged that Hansa Research has made payment of Rs 32 lakh to Republic TV which is incorrect.

Clarifying further, Shekar Swamy, Group CEO Hansa said, "Our Group company Hansa Vision India Pvt Ltd is in the advertising business. It purchases advertising time and space in various TV channels, newspapers, radio, digital platforms and other media regularly for its clients. This is normal, routine business. The last time Hansa Vision has purchased advertising time in Republic TV was two years ago for the period from September 2017 to October 2018 for a value of Rs 108 lakh. The Mumbai Police is perhaps incorrectly linking this with the current TRP related investigation."

In the past two years, as part of its business, Hansa Vision has purchased TV advertising time from 55 TV channels for a total value of Rs 13.42 crore on behalf of its clients. In 2019 and 2020, Hansa Vision has not bought any advertising time from Republic TV.

Shekar Swamy further added, "The Hansa Research CEO and team have been repeatedly called by API Mr Sachin Vaze of the Crime Branch, and asked to stay till late hours. They are cooperating with the investigation and have submitted various documents as asked for. Hansa Research and the people working for this company have nothing to do with the advertising activities of the group company Hansa Vision."

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First Published: 27 October, 2020 07:23 IST

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