12th February 2018
Honourable Prime Minister,
Shri Narendra Modi,
Respected Prime Minister:
I write to you in the context of the barrage of letters about NDTV addressed to you (and simultaneously released to the press/social media) by Mr Subramanian Swamy. While his letters are a litany of falsehoods - aimed at muzzling and silencing NDTV with an underlying warning to all free and independent media in India - what is equally important is the damage to India that Mr Swamy and his loyalists are inflicting. I feel it is my duty to bring this to your attention.
Mr Swamy, through various unethical and dubious methods has ensured that the finest US corporations - GE and NBC (America's most-respected media organisation) - are being accused of "money laundering" and indulging in "sham transactions" with NDTV. These outrageous accusations are being made by India's Enforcement Directorate and Income Tax department.
The charges that India's authorities are making are so serious that under US law, these offences would invite harsh prison sentences for Mr Jeff Immelt (CEO of GE at the time of the accusations). Also, the CEO of NBC, Mr Jeff Zucker would go to jail in the US based on these ED and IT charges. Mr Zucker is now the President of CNN and one of the most respected media executives in America. India is accusing him of money-laundering on the basis of zero evidence and Mr Swamy's interested circle's innuendo and a malicious campaign.
I have met both Mr Immelt and Mr Zucker on several occasions when their organisations invested in NDTV. Mr Prime Minister, you too have met Mr Immelt a number of times after you became PM. You will agree with me that these are industry leaders full of integrity and vision. For the ED and the IT department (where the officers are under relentless pressure from Mr. Swamy and his cohorts), to accuse these two leaders of being involved in money-laundering with NDTV is a shame on our nation.
The news of these serious and outrageous charges of money-laundering against GE and NBC has already begun to be noted by the world business community. Industry leaders around the world and especially in the US are shocked and dismayed at these false accusations against two respected organisations and these two business leaders.
At a time when you are seeking more Foreign Direct Investment for India, this sort of wild and baseless charge is damaging India's reputation. A leading US businessman recently said to us, "Why should we come to invest in India - false cases may be filed against us!"
Respected Prime Minister, please note that these false accusations against GE and NBC's investment in NDTV have been carrying on for several years without an iota of evidence. The accusations were started 7-8 years ago by Mr Swamy and Mr Gurumurthy. They know very well that the allegations are false and yet they are ready to sacrifice India's reputation and foreign investment for their own sordid motives to suppress NDTV and India's media. Should petty personal motives be allowed to come ahead of the interests of our nation?
GE and NBC have provided a huge amount of evidence to show this investment in NDTV is totally legitimate: 1) unambiguous evidence is available in the GE reports to the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC); 2) unambiguous evidence of the investment has been publicly declared in their annual reports 3) a press conference discussing details of the investment in NDTV was telecast on global TV networks (for a one-minute extract please click on this link https://youtu.be/Twb67gkVK2s))) - and there is much more evidence easily available, too detailed to list here.
This matter is in India's higher courts and legal experts are of the view that any day now, we can expect the courts to summon Mr Immelt and Mr Zucker as part of procedure. That's when India's reputation among global investors will be hit even harder.
In a nutshell, Mr Swamy and his small group are damaging the reputation of our country in a motivated and egregious attack on the free media in India - we at NDTV are proud of India's tradition of media and press freedom and we will fight these falsehoods and not be suppressed or muzzled.