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NewsClick Case: If Modi Govt is Really Serious About 'Terror Financing', Why Hasn't It Rung the US, China and FATF?

Without going into the merits of the police case against 'NewsClick', the gravity of the charges themselves allows us to raise several questions about the Modi government’s seriousness in unearthing and prosecuting all the conspirators allegedly involved.
Neville Roy Singham. In the background are Xiaomi (left) and Vivo (right) logos. Photos: Singham (X/@thoughtworks); Xiaomi (Wikimedia Commons/Xiaomi/Public Domain); and Vivo ( Wikimedia Commons/Colwin/CC BY-SA 4.0 DEED)

A shorter version of this article was first published on The India Cable – a premium newsletter from The Wire & Galileo Ideas – and has been republished here. To subscribe to The India Cable, click here.

The cornerstone of the Delhi Police’s terrorism case against NewsClick and its founder Prabir Purkayastha is that he is the recipient of funds from an American businessman, Neville Roy Singham, who used US-based entities to transfer millions of dollars to India to fuel unrest aimed at disrupting “supplies and services essential to the life of community in India”. Why? To “abet damage and destruction of property”, all with a view to creating disaffection among various sections of society and “actively sympathising [with a] banned terrorist organisation so that unity, integrity, security, and sovereignty of the country can be threatened.”

The first information report (FIR) makes it clear that Singham acted at the behest of China, since he is “an active member of the propaganda wing of the Communist Party of China”, and that two Chinese telecom companies, Xiaomi and Vivo, helped execute this conspiracy by setting up “thousands of shell companies” and “infusing foreign funds in India”.

So far, the police have arrested Purkayastha and another NewsClick employee under India’s stringent anti-terror law. Phones and computers have been seized from over 50 other individuals, most of them journalists. Without going into the merits of the police case against NewsClick, the gravity of the charges themselves allows us to raise several questions about the Modi government’s seriousness in unearthing and prosecuting all the conspirators allegedly involved.

1. Has the Government of India requested the United States government to take action against and/or extradite its citizen, Neville Roy Singham, whose financing of NewsClick is being called a terrorist crime by the Delhi Police?

The FIR was filed on August 17, 2023, after the authorities say they had analysed hundreds of thousands of emails from Purkayastha’s accounts which were seized two years earlier when the Enforcement Directorate first raided the news portal’s offices.

Yet neither before or after the FIR was filed does the government appear to have made any efforts to even interrogate Singham, despite the fact that he is accused number 3 in the FIR and is supposedly the financial lynchpin in the case.

Could it be because the government knows that the fund transfers from Singham’s entities are exactly what both the remitter and recipient have said they are: a bona fide investment, made using money generated from the sale of Singham’s company? And that if India were to request the US authorities to take action they would be rebuffed?

2. Has the Government of India notified the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) secretariat in Paris that Neville Roy Singham and his companies are involved in terror financing so that all countries around the world can take action against him? Does it intend to request Interpol to issue a red-corner notice against the businessman?

For the past few years, the Indian government has set much store by the FATF process to bring Pakistan to heel on the question of terror financing. Yet here, despite claiming to possess evidence of a major terrorist plot with international financial ramifications, New Delhi does not appear to have moved the FATF at all. Could it be because the ED and other agencies familiar with the FATF process know their case might not withstand serious independent scrutiny?

3. Is it the Government of India’s official stand that the Communist Party of China and the Chinese government it runs are sponsoring terrorism in India?

Delhi Police reports to the Union Home Ministry and if it is accusing an “active member” of the CPC with using illegal fund flows to push the official Chinese agenda in India, especially on the question of the status of Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh, it stands to reason that the government believes China is aiding and abetting terrorism and related unlawful activities inside India. If this is so, will New Delhi now suspend all dialogue with Beijing, since the government’s official stand is that talks and terrorism cannot go hand in hand? Does the Modi government plan to ask China to reduce the number of diplomats it has stationed in India because the Chinese side – according to the police charge – is clearly interfering in India’s internal affairs, just as India has accused Canadian diplomats of interference?

4. While NewsClick is accused of indirectly receiving money from China, are the Enforcement Directorate, the NIA and the Special Cell of the Delhi Police going to now open UAPA and money laundering investigations into every Indian company that has received direct or indirect Chinese investment over the past 10 years?

Singham’s fund transfers to NewsClick came from the US via regular banking channels but the police and ED say the funds are actually from China and thus pose a threat to India’s unity and integrity. Singham’s lawyers dispute the claim that the money invested in NewsClick is ‘Chinese’, but there are hundreds of companies in India that have actually received money directly from China-based entities in the form of FDI, FII and commercial orders. Does the Indian government intend to probe all those companies and seize the electronic devices of every CEO and promoter involved so that their emails and other messages can be scrutinised for evidence of anti-national activity?

A protest against the Delhi police’s swoop on journalists and others associated with NewsClick, at the Press Club of India, October 4, 2023. Photo: Yaqut Ali/The Wire

5. Neville Roy Singham is now said to be a resident of Shanghai, according to the FIR. Has the Government of India written to the Chinese government demanding action against him – in the same way that it has asked Canada to act against anti-India terrorist elements on its soil?

Beijing may not cooperate but has the request even been made? And is the government ready to take escalatory steps against China in the event that Singham is not extradited?

6. Will the Modi government now pull the plug on Xiaomi and Vivo and expel them from India?

Xiaomi and Vivo have a major presence in India – as investors in other firms, as manufacturers and vendors of mobile phones. The ED has been investigating them for three years now and hundreds of crores of rupees of lie frozen in their Indian bank accounts but they still have major plans to ramp up production in India. What is more, they have been welcomed and encouraged by top Union government ministers. With the authorities now saying they have evidence of both firms illegally funnelling money into India as part of Singham’s conspiracy to destabilise the country, is it wise to allow them to expand their economic footprint in India?

What answers the Modi government has to these questions will tell us a lot about the real nature of the terrorist conspiracy that lies at the centre of the police action against NewsClick.


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