In a significant development on the morning of October 3, 2023, the Delhi Police conducted raids on various locations associated with NewsClick, an online portal with long-standing suspicions of promoting anti-Indian interests. Authorities had been investigating the portal since 2021 for allegedly receiving illicit foreign funding. The recent actions by the Delhi Police have unveiled potential links to subversive activities.
The Raids and Their Implications:
The Delhi Police targeted several locations in connection with the Newsclick controversy, including the residence of Abhisar Sharma, a former television journalist turned YouTuber. Authorities scrutinized Abhisar Sharma’s involvement with Newsclick. It resulted in the confiscation of his laptop and phone. The raids also extended to other individuals connected to Newsclick, such as Sanjay Rajoura, Bhasha Singh, Urmilesh, Prabir Purkayastha, Aunindyo Chakraborty and Sohail Hashmi.
The Foreign Funding Allegations:
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) investigation into Newsclick has exposed a disturbing pattern of illicit foreign funding. According to findings, NewsClick allegedly received an astounding Rs. 38.05 crores in overseas funds over a three-year period. These funds are suspected of being channeled to various individuals. They include controversial figures like Gautam Navlakha and those associated with Teesta Setalvad.
Under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), the ED conducted extensive searches at the premises of PPK Newsclick Studio, its affiliated entities, as well as the directors and shareholders located in the Delhi National Capital Region (NCR).
During these searches, authorities seized foreign currency, incriminating documents, and digital evidence.
The Dubious Transactions:
The ED investigation has unveiled a series of questionable transactions involving foreign inward remittances. Notably, Rs. 9.59 crores entered the system through Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). An additional Rs. 28.46 crores purportedly resulted from the export of services.
Prabir Purkayastha, the Director of Newsclick, was found to have connections with Neville Roy Singham. He is allegedly linked to the Communist Party of China (CPC), dating back to 2017. Despite this connection, Prabir claimed ignorance of Neville’s company.
Based on seized digital evidence, allegations suggest that Prabir Purkayastha and Neville Roy Singham orchestrated a complex scheme. They purportedly secured Rs. 9.59 crores from a Chinese entity by establishing a legal façade of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). Additionally, Neville Roy Singham was found to have transferred funds to Prabir under the guise of consultancy fees, ostensibly to promote a “leftist ideology.” Neither Prabir Purkayastha nor the Newsclick Studio personnel have offered a satisfactory explanation for receiving Rs. 28.46 crores from foreign sources.
NewsClick: An Anti-Indian Platform
In addition to the ED investigation in 2021, a report by The New York Times in August 2023 exposed an ecosystem of activist organizations, non-profits, shell corporations, and their close ties to China and Chinese propaganda. Central to this network was Neville Roy Singham, who worked closely with the Chinese government’s media machine, financing its propaganda efforts worldwide.
This extensive network allowed China to disseminate its messaging in various countries, including India, under the guise of progressive advocacy. Corporate filings indicated that in New Delhi, Singham’s network provided financial support to Newsclick, a news site that incorporated Chinese government talking points into its coverage.