Top managment of the Times Group was questioned by ED in the FEMA investigation

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The Indian Express has learned that Bennett Coleman and Company Limited (BCCL), one of the major media conglomerates in the nation and publisher of the Times of India Group of publications, is being investigated by a central investigating body.

Sources verified to The Indian Express that the Enforcement Directorate (ED) has questioned top corporate executives on multiple occasions and has lately sent formal requests for corroborating information to foreign locations.

Digital, TV, and radio are just a few of the media and entertainment businesses that BCCL is the owner of.

Sivakumar Sundaram, the company’s chairman of the executive committee (CEC), and Himanshu Agarwal, its chief financial officer (CFO), have been brought in for questioning at the ED headquarters in New Delhi during the past several weeks.

According to officials, nearly Rs 900 crore in financial transactions between BCCL and firms in the British Virgin Islands, a worldwide tax haven, are among those whose validity is being investigated (BVI).

According to The Indian Express, the current “inquiry” is being carried out for alleged transgressions of the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA), not the more draconian Prevention of Money Laundering Act, as of yet (PMLA).

When reached, agency representatives opted not to comment on the investigation. They also didn’t go into detail about other members of the media group who might be asked to testify as the investigation goes on.

The Indian Express sent an email to Samir Jain, vice chairman of BCCL, and Vineet Jain, managing director, asking for their comments on the ED summons and the under investigation transactions.

According to the firm’s balance reports, MX Media Co Ltd, a company that was registered in the British Virgin Islands, is one of the Group entities.

In 2017–18 and 2018–19, this BVI entity’s status was listed as “subsidiary” firm, with the parent business owning 52.35 percent of the shares. This was upgraded to the status of a “associate” firm, and in the fiscal years 2019–2020 and 2020–2021, the equity of the parent company was diluted to 40.36 percent.

The company (MX Media Co Ltd BVI) is classified as a joint venture dealing with “financial insurance and business services” in RBI filings on outward FDI flow for the year 2019 and has an equity of $35.8 million.

Other “affiliate” firms of the Group that have been incorporated in South Korea, China, and Singapore are listed in BCCL’s balance sheet.

According to Registrar of Companies statistics, BCCL’s revenue from operations dropped significantly by 44% in the Covid year 2020-21 to Rs 5,337 crore from Rs 9,611 crore in the previous year.

Additionally, the company’s loss increased by more than twofold from Rs. 451 crore in the fiscal year 2019–20 to Rs. 997 crore in the fiscal year 2020–21. The financial year 2018–2019 saw a net profit of Rs 484 crore for BCCL.