Who are Jeff Immelt, Jeff Zucker and why is Prannoy Roy trying to shield them from being questioned

Prannoy Roy, co-founder and co-chairperson of NDTV had yesterday written a letter to the PM. In his letter, he has alleged that he is being falsely framed by Dr Subramanian Swamy and his associates. While Prannoy Roy asserts that any attempt to question NDTV is a warning to all free and independent media in India, he makes another interesting claim.

Prannoy Roy writes that India’s Enforcement Directorate and Income Tax department, under influence of Dr Swamy is making “outrageous accusations” against leading global corporates GE and NBC and the charges are so serious that the persons heading the corporations at that time might go to jail.

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Roy’s letter names Jeff Immelt who was the CEO of GE at the time of the accusations and Jeff Zucker, the former CEO of NBC who now heads the CNN. NDTV has long been in financial and legal troubles under charges of money laundering and tax evasion.

In 2008, the US television network NBC had invested 150 million US dollars in NDTV Networks. The I-T department had alleged that the NDTV channel had routed the money through NBC, which was then a subsidiary of GE, via Bermuda and NDTV had received the money through its shell company in the Netherlands. At the time of the investment, NBC was a 100% subsidiary of GE. NDTV has long since alleged that the I-T department’s charges are serious and they would mean Jail time for Jeff Immelt and Jeff Zucker in the US.

Jeffery R Immelt was the CEO of GE from 2000 to 2017. Under his tenure, GE was being reported in the American media about how the company’s innovative tax strategies make it possible for them to pay almost no tax in the US. They had an aggressive strategy that pushed for tax breaks by fierce lobbying and widespread measures that enabled them to concentrate their profits offshore. A report by Institute of policy studies states that if there was an Olympic competition for tax dodging, GE would grab the gold. It is also noteworthy that three of GE’s subsidiary companies are in tax haven Bermuda. US Senator Bernie Sanders in his website lists GE at no 1 of the US’s top 10 corporate tax evaders.

Jeff Zucker was the president and CEO of NBC since 2000. He left NBC in 2010. It was reported that Comcast, the company which acquired NBC, had fired Zucker. In 2013 he became the president of CNN Worldwide. Under his leadership, CNN has been under several allegations of reporting fake news and misrepresentations of events. Jeff Zucker is widely criticised in the US media. The US President has repeatedly called CNN as “fake news channel. CNN was criticised for the wrong portrayal of the Trayvon Martin shooting incident where it was accused that CNN had deliberately tried to paint it as a black vs white story. They had also been criticised for publicly revealing the personal details of George Zimmerman. The man who had shot Trayvon.

Prannoy Roy, in his letter, had asserted that both Jeff Immelt and Jeff Zucker lead respectable corporate organisations and the questioning them in the matter of the tax evasion and money laundering charges by the I-T department might mean prison time for them. While Prannoy Roy’s letter has raised several questions on why NDTV is suddenly in ‘hail mary’ mode, it also raises doubt on why does Roy thinks Immelt and Zucker are above the Law? He states in the letter that as both of them are ‘industry leaders full of integrity and vision’ the Indian tax officials should not level allegations against them. He also states that the charges have already begun to be noted by the international business community further asserts that this might damage India’s FDI and its reputation at international level.

Many social media users have started calling out Roy’s claims by questioning Zucker’s credibility and reputation instead.

While it is highly questionable why Prannoy Roy would try to dodge the Indian legal system and instead attempt to get the PM involved in a legal matter, it has also brought to light some other questions. Why is Prannoy Roy so opposed to Immelt and Zucker being questioned by Indian officials? Is he afraid that some hidden facts may come to light? Or he is trying to hide behind these corporate ‘stalwarts’ and hoping that for the sake of keeping good ties with their respective companies, the Indian government will show leniency in the tax evasion scandal? Prannoy Roy has a lot to answer.

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