The Enforcement Directorate on Tuesday conducted raids at the home of Newsclick founder and Editor-in-Chief Prabir Purkayastha. Initial reports suggest that the office of the digital media platform was raided as well.
According to sources, the Enforcement Directorate on Tuesday conducted searches at more than 10 locations in Delhi and the NCR region to investigate the proceeds of crime related to PPK NEWSCLICK Studio Private Limited under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act. The company is alleged to have received over Rs. 30 crores in 3 years.
The funds thus received does not appear to have any connections with the main business activity of the company said sources. It is further alleged that the funds were disbursed to journalists/activists in the name of salary or consultation fee. The beneficiaries include those associated with Teesta Setalvad. Other beneficiaries include Gautam Navlakha, Paranjoy Guha Thakurta among others.
Sources say that the beneficiaries “prima facie do not appear to be connected with the provision of services as claimed to be exported against the foreign inward remittances.” Sources also mentioned a US based company called Viking Systems International Inc. which has worldwide presence in naval architecture and marine engineering solutions for offshore oil and gas industries.
According to its website, NewsClick is owned by PPK NEWSCLICK Studio Private Limited. Prabir Purkayastha is the Director of the company. Pranjal Pandey is an Additional Director and raids were conducted against him as well, initial reports suggest.
Who is Prabir Purkayastha?
Apart from being the Editor of Newsclick, Prabir Purkayastha is an engineer and a “science activist”. He also happens to be the president of the “Free Software Movement of India” (FSMI). In 2017, “Sixteen Free Software Movements (FSMs) working in various states and sectors came together and decided to form a National coalition of FSMs”. The FSMI was a result of that.
The goals of the FSMI include taking “forward free software and its ideological implications to all corners of our nation from the developed domains to the underprivileged” and “Creating awareness among computer users in the use of free software”.
Prabir Purkayastha is also reportedly a founder member of the Delhi Science Forum (DSF). The DSF has Kamala Menon as its secretary currently.
According to its website, “Delhi Science Forum (DSF) was constituted in the year 1978 as a Public Interest Organisation registered under the Societies Act. The primary aim of the forum was to work on the science and society interface including popularizing science and science & technology policies.”
According to the Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC), “He has written and published extensively a variety of science and technology policy issues in several leading journals and newspapers including ‘Economic and Political Weekly’, ‘Times of India’ and a number of Delhi Science Forum publications.”
His columns have also appeared in the official website of the Communist Party of India (Marxist). In those columns, he speaks of “Covid-19 Pandemic and the Pathologies of Late Capitalism” and other matters.
Prabir Purkayastha has also addressed events organised by organisations that receive funds from abroad, including from the Omidyar Network. He is also the Director at multiple companies. He is a Director at the Startacus Software Private Limited (SSPL), Sagrik Process Analysts Private Limited, PP Connect Media Private Limited among others.
Ties with Gautam Navlakha
Most interestingly, at SSPL, Gautam Navlakha was also a Director with Prabir Purkayastha. Gautam Navlakha is one of the ‘Urban Naxals’ arrested in the Bhima Koregaon case and allegedly has links with Pakistan’s ISI. Following his arrest, it was reported that Gautam Navlakha was in touch with Hizbul Mujahideen terrorists as well.
In the extremely unlikely event that the Gautam Navlakha, director of SSPL, is not the same person as ‘Urban Naxal’ Gautam Navlakha, Newsclick needs to come clear on this. The current status of SSPL is listed as “strike off”.
Even more shockingly, Gautam Navlakha was an “Independent Partner” of PP NEWSCLICK STUDIO LLP where he was appointed to the position on the 17th of April, 2017. It is pertinent to note here that PPK NEWSCLICK Studio Private Limited, the current owner of Newsclick, was incorporated on the 11th of January, 2018, 10 days after the Bhima Koregaon violence.
All of this points to a very suspicious chain of events. The current status of PP NEWSCLICK STUDIO LLP says, “Converted to CMP and Dissolved”. It is also to be noted that Prabir Purkayastha and Gautam Navlakha were appointed as Directors of SSP in September 1993.
Gautam Navlakha was then appointed as Independent Partner of PP NEWSCLICK STUDIO LLP in April 2017. That is a connection spanning over 24 years.
DIGIPUB News India Foundation
The DIGIPUB News India Foundation (Digipub) was “formed by digital media organisations with the intent to help ensure the creation of a healthy and robust news ecosystem for the digital age. The aim is to build a platform that represents digital news media organisations, with its membership open to digital-only ventures, as well as media commentators and independent journalists active in the digital news space.”
The prominent founding members of the organisation included Alt News, Newsclick, Newslaundry, Scroll, The News Minute, The Quint, The Wire and among freelancers, the names include Akash Banerji, Faye DeSouza, Paranjoy Guha Thakurta and Neha Dixit.
According to ZaubaCorp, Prabir Purkayastha was one of the Directors at Digipub. Other Directors at Digipub included The News Minute’s Dhanya Rajendran, Newslaundry’s Abhinandan Sekhi, and Ritu Kapur of The Quint.