By Press Trust of India: The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has registered a case under the FEMA against BBC India for alleged foreign exchange violations and called its staffers for questioning following which a deputy managing editor of the broadcasting company deposed on Thursday, official sources said.
The action by the central agency comes nearly two months after the Income-Tax department surveyed the office premises of the British Broadcaster in Delhi and Mumbai in February.
According to officials, the case under the provisions of the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) was registered nearly two weeks ago to essentially probe purported foreign direct investment (FDI) violations by the company and related instances.
The ED has called for documents and the recording of statements of some company executives and a team of lawyers representing the company has already submitted some financial documents last week, they added.
In London, the British public broadcaster said it will cooperate fully with the Indian authorities.
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“We will continue to cooperate fully with the Indian authorities to ensure that we comply with all our obligations,” a spokesperson for the UK-headquartered British taxpayer-funded licence fee-backed media corporation told PTI in response to a query.
Reacting to the ED action, Congress spokesperson Anshul Avijit said, “We know the atmosphere that is being created by the Orwellian sort of state here where the freedom of expression and press has completely been clamped down.”
“It is not new, it has been happening, there are changes in laws but far from that there are threats and intimidation so whoever dares criticise this government is actually thrown in jail,” Avijit said at a press conference at AICC headquarters.
On February 14 this year, the I-T department conducted survey operations at the London-headquartered broadcaster’s offices in Delhi and Mumbai as part of an investigation into alleged tax evasion. The survey went on for three days.
The Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT), the administrative body for the I-T department, had then said the income and profits shown by various BBC group entities were “not commensurate” with the scale of their operations in India and tax has not been paid on certain remittances by its foreign entities.
The BBC, after the tax survey, had said they will “continue to cooperate with the authorities and hope matters are resolved as soon as possible.”
ALSO READ | I-T teams at BBC’s Delhi, Mumbai offices for survey as part of tax evasion investigation
“The survey found that despite substantial consumption of content in various Indian languages (apart from English), the income/profits shown by various group entities (of BBC) is not commensurate with the scale of operations in India.”
“…the department gathered several evidences pertaining to the operation of the organisation which indicate that tax has not been paid on certain remittances which have not been disclosed as income in India by the foreign entities of the group,” the CBDT had said.
The action had led to a sharp political debate with the BJP accusing the BBC of “venomous reporting” while the Opposition questioned the timing — weeks after the broadcaster aired a two-part documentary, “India: The Modi Question”.