New Delhi | A fresh summons was issued by the Enforcement Directorate to China-based American millionaire Neville Roy Singham for questioning in connection with a money laundering probe linked to online news portal NewsClick, officials said on Thursday.
The 69-year-old businessman, who is accused of spreading Chinese propaganda in India, is stated to be currently based in Shanghai.
The summons were sent to Singham recently on his personal email ID and also through the Chinese diplomatic channels after the ED routed them through the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), the officials said.
This is understood to be the second summons issued to Singham by the ED. The first was issued last year after the federal agency launched its investigation in 2021.
The request has been sent under the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) signed between India and China in 2003. Under this agreement, both countries shall promote cooperation for exchange of information on legal matters and cooperation in other legal and judicial matters which are of interest to both parties, the officials said.
The Letters Rogatory (LR), routed through the Chinese authorities, were issued under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) whereby the agency wished to record his statement as part of its probe, they said.
The ED is understood to have sent an LR to the US too, seeking details of a company that is alleged to have sent funds worth Rs 9.59 crore to NewsClick's registered company PPK Newsclick Studio Pvt. Ltd. in April 2018, besides a few other such entities.
Singham's name hit the headlines after The New York Times published an article titled "A Global Web of Chinese Propaganda Leads to a U.S. Tech Mogul" on August 5.
Following this news piece and some fresh "evidence" shared by the ED, the Delhi Police Special Cell also filed an FIR against Singham and the founders of NewsClick.
Police later arrested NewsClick founder and editor-in-chief Prabir Purkayastha and human resources head Amit Chakravorty even as the CBI registered a case against the portal and its promoters.
In a statement issued to the media in October, Singham had said that the language used in the FIR filed by the Delhi Police Special Cell "strongly suggests" that the claims were "influenced by misinformation from an article published by The New York Times".
"The NYT intentionally chose not to publish all the factual rebuttals that I provided to them on July 22, 2023, prior to their publication date," Singham had charged.
He also rejected the allegation of fraudulent infusion of funds through a "complex web of several entities" as mentioned in the FIR and in the NYT article.
The New York Times report claimed that NewsClick was part of a global network that received funding from Singham, who allegedly works closely with the Chinese government media machine.
The ED had first raided the premises of NewsClick in the Saidulajab area of the national capital in September 2021 on charges of money laundering and recorded statements of more than 25 people in this case, including that of Purkayastha.
As part of the investigation, the agency attached a flat worth Rs 4.52 crore in south Delhi's Saket that is linked to Purkayastha apart from fixed deposits worth Rs 41 lakh.
NewsClick had said the allegations being made against it "by certain political actors and sections of the media are unfounded and without basis in fact or law".