MUMBAI: Over a month after the city police launched a probe into the TRP manipulation scam, the Enforcement Directorate based on the police FIR has registered a money laundering case.
An FIR is a prerequisite for ED to register a money laundering case as mandated under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.
The ED case, known as the Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR), rests on the FIR which had named Vishal Bhandari, a former employee of Hansa Research, as an accused. Hansa Research was contracted for the work of installing barometers in the homes of select audiences to gauge their TV viewing pattern by the Broadcasting Audience Research Council or BARC.
The ED’s ECIR is a replica of the Mumbai police FIR. The probe will begin with those mentioned in the FIR and will extend to those who were arrested, probed or being probed by the city police, sources said. The police registered a case on October 6.
The ED collected the FIR copy from the Mumbai police recently and has requested the police to provide other case-related documents. This will include the details of the investigation carried out till date that covers the financial audits of those under scanner. Police had claimed to have found a money trail linking payments by former employees of Hansa Research, private persons who acted on behalf of the channels and the entities who finally handed over the amounts to households.
Six channels – Republic TV, Fakt Marathi, Box Cinema, Mahamovies, News Nation and Wow music – are being probed by the city police. The police have so far arrested 13 persons, including owners of Fakt Marathi and Box Cinema. The last person to have been arrested was Ghanshyam Dilipkumar Singh (44), the distribution head of Republic TV; he is currently in judicial custody.
The city police probe will continue its probe to unearth the entire criminal conspiracy irrespective of the ED’s findings. The ED’s probe will focus on the financial aspects to establish laundering of money and thus identifying the ‘proceeds of crime’ generated from the criminal activity. If the FIR in a case closes, the ED case also collapses.
A legal expert stated that generally, the ED names only those accused named in the police FIR as accused in their case, or adds additional names if they have some specific input about some other accused connected to the case.
In the Mumbai police FIR, it was alleged that Bhandari had offered money to households where barometers were installed for watching specific channels.