Officials from the Income Tax Department visited the offices of news websites Newslaundry and NewsClick to carry out 'survey operations' to check the funding and finances of the two organisations. A person familiar with the event said that the IT department noticed specific gaps in the financial statements and irregularities in foreign investments of the two news outlets. The Department officials have said they had conducted 'survey operations' and not raids in the two offices.
Six To Seven Officials Raided
The Hindustan Times quoted an official privy to the matter on the condition of anonymity, "NewsClick and Newslaundry received Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) at a very high premium while their net worth was very low." The source further added that there were gaps between the finances of the two, which suggested tax evasion, but the officials were verifying the same.
After the so-called survey, Newslaundry CEO Abhinandan Sekhri issued his statement on Twitter, mentioning that six or seven officials came at 12:40 pm on September 10 and left the office at 12:40 am on September 11. A similar raid was conducted at their office in June this year.
Operation Carried Out Under Section 133A
The operation was carried out under Section 133A of the Income Tax Act of 1961. Tax officials cover only the business premises of an assessee and those linked to it and not their residential addresses. However, the Act does not limit the officials to seize documents. The officials have reportedly seized the documents and electronic communication from both media houses and further studied the finances to prepare a report. The assessing officer would then launch a formal investigation under the I-T Act in case the need for further action arises.
Both media portals were raided last on June 30. The Enforcement Directorate had raided the NewsClick office on February 9, alleging money laundering linked to the foreign investment it received.