India accuses BBC of tax evasion after raiding offices | Press freedom news

Critics questioned the timing of the searches, which came after the BBC aired a program critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

India’s finance ministry has accused the BBC of tax evasion, saying it had not fully disclosed income and profits from its operations in the country.

Indian tax authorities ended three days of raids on the British broadcaster’s offices in New Delhi and Mumbai on Thursday night.

Without naming the BBC, the Central Board of Direct Taxes said on Friday in its first official statement since completing the office inspections that “the survey showed that despite significant consumption of content in various Indian languages ​​(other than English), the revenue/profit of various group units are not consistent with the scale of operations in India.”

“During the course of investigation, the department gathered several evidences relating to the operation of the organization indicating that tax has not been paid on certain remittances which have not been declared as income in India by the foreign entities of the group,” it said.

Not “vengeful”

Critics of Prime Minister Narendra Modi have questioned the timing of the searches, which came after India reacted angrily to a documentary by the British broadcaster that focused on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership as chief minister in the western state of Gujarat during riots in 2002.

Reporters Without Borders, an international media watchdog, condemned the government’s action as “an attempt to crack down on independent media”.

“These raids appear to be 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 is increasingly being hounded and when pluralism is shrinking in India due to increased media concentration, the group said in a statement on Thursday.

A BBC spokesperson confirmed that the tax authorities had left the offices in New Delhi and Mumbai.

“We are supporting staff – some of whom have been subjected to lengthy interrogations or required to stay the night – and their welfare is our priority,” the spokesperson said.

“Our production is back to normal and we remain committed to serving the public in India and beyond.”

A government official rejected accusations that the tax probe was “vindictive”, saying it was related to transfer pricing rules and alleged diversion of profits.

The Press Trust of India news agency cited unnamed officials as saying on Thursday that investigators collected financial data from selected BBC employees and made copies of electronic and paper data from the news organization.

It said the investigation was carried out to examine issues relating to international taxation and transfer pricing by BBC subsidiaries.

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