India tax authority uncovers BBC accounting ‘inconsistencies’ in raid of Indian offices after release of controversial Modi documentary News
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India tax authority uncovers BBC accounting ‘inconsistencies’ in raid of Indian offices after release of controversial Modi documentary

The Indian Income Tax Department Friday said that they uncovered irregularities in the BBC’s accounting books following a search of the broadcaster’s offices. In a statement, the tax authority said that a survey action was carried out across the broadcaster’s Delhi and Mumbai offices which found “several discrepancies and inconsistencies” regarding the company’s tax declarations. The statement did not refer to the BBC by name and instead referred to a “prominent international Media Company” which developed content in English, Hindi and other Indian languages.

The survey action found that income and profits reported by the BBC’s group entities are “not commensurate with the scale of operations in India.” It also found that the company had not been paying tax on certain remittances which had not been reported in India by the foreign entities. The operation collected “crucial evidences by way of statement of employees, digital evidences and documents,” which would be examined as part of the investigation.

The BBC confirmed that the search had concluded and that the BBC was cooperating with Indian authorities on the matter. The BBC said, “The BBC is a trusted, independent media organisation and we stand by our colleagues and journalists who will continue to report without fear or favour.”

The three-day operation follows reports that the Indian Government attempted to block the BBC documentary series “India: the Modi Question” from being shared online. Several outlets have condemned the operation as an attack on independent media freedom following the controversy surrounding the documentary. Reporters Without Borders denounced the Indian government’s actions, stating:

These raid have all the appearance of a reprisal against the BBC for releasing a documentary critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi three weeks ago. They have come at a time when independent media are being hounded more and more, and when pluralism is shrinking in India due to increased media concentration. It is essential that international media like the BBC can continue to operate in India without being harassed, and that the rights of journalists and, in particular, the confidentiality of their sources, are respected in this investigation.

The documentary was banned in India, and a petition was filed in the Supreme Court seeking to ban the BBC and investigate their staff and “anti-Indian government” reporting. The Supreme Court dismissed the petition in early February, stating that the “misconceived” petition sought to impose censorship.