10 Sep 2021: Income Tax Department conducts 'surveys' at offices of NewsClick, Newslaundry
Income Tax Department officials today visited the offices of online news portals NewsClick and Newslaundry in Delhi. Department officials confirmed to the media that they were "surveys" and not raids, as suggested by some earlier reports. In a survey, I-T officials can check an organization's financial records but not confiscate any items. Here are more details on this.
Details: Account books examined; employees' phones seized
The I-T Department's action was linked to allegations of tax evasion and account books of both the firms were examined. According to a Newslaundry employee, officials had reached the company's office in Sarvodaya Enclave around 11:40 am, The Wire reported. Employees of both the portals said mobile phones of all the people present at the offices had been seized and switched off.
Action: Newslaundry co-founder Abhinandan Sekhri questioned
Tax officials went to the Newslaundry office's accounts department to clone the devices there, a source told Scroll. They asked for certain documents, which were provided, the source said, adding Newslaundry co-founder Abhinandan Sekhri was also questioned. "Everyone's phones were confiscated, switched off and kept together on a table," sources told The Wire. Around 3 pm, some employees were allowed to leave the office.
Probe: Earlier, ED had raided NewsClick office, its editors
In February, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) had raided NewsClick's office and the residences of its editors, based on money laundering allegations. Authorities alleged that the company received Rs. 9.59 crore in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) by fraudulent means. In July, the Delhi High Court had granted interim protection from coercive action to the company and its Editor-in-Chief Prabir Purkayastha until September 2.
Similar incident: Dainik Bhaskar Group was also raided in July
Not long ago, the I-T Department had conducted raids at premises linked to the Dainik Bhaskar Group and Bharat Samachar news channel. It alleged that the former had evaded taxes on Rs. 700 crore of income. The media group, on the other hand, said they were targeted because of their coverage of the government's handling of the second COVID-19 wave.
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