The Enforcement Directorate (ED), conducting a money laundering probe into the Television Rating Points (TRP) scam, has provisionally attached properties worth Rs 32 crore of three channels accused in it. These channels include Fakt Marathi, Box Cinema and Maha Movie. The Mumbai Police had registered an FIR against the three channels along with several others and had alleged them of manipulating TRPs.
According to the ED officials, they have attached immovable and movable
properties in the form of land, commercial and residential units in Mumbai, Indore, Delhi and Gurgaon along with the balance in bank accounts of these channels amounting to Rs. 32 crore. Investigations have revealed that the proceeds of crime for these channels is to the tune of Rs 46 crore, which was allegedly generated during the manipulation period of the TRP of the channels, said the ED officials. The attachment has been done under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002.
According to the officials, investigation revealed that these three channels had entered into a criminal conspiracy to cheat and committed the offence of criminal breach of trust and forgery in order to gain wrongfully by manipulating TRPs. Thus, by fraudulently enhancing the TRP ratings, these channels have garnered enhanced advertisement
revenue, claimed the ED officials.
In two of these channels, just five compromised households were contributing to approximately 25 per cent of the viewership of Mumbai for the relevant period. For the third channel, five compromised households were contributing to approximately 12 per cent of the viewership of Mumbai, revealed the ED's probe. The agency has initiated investigation on the basis of the FIR registered by Mumbai police.
Mumbai Police, which unearth the scam in October last year, has so far arrested several top office bearers of Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC), including its CEO Partho Dasgupta, COO Romil Ramgariha and Republic TV's CEO Vikas Khanchandani, amongst others.
Mumbai Police's initial investigation was based on how the former relationship managers of Hansa Research, a market research company hired by BARC, were paid to rig the TRPs and manipulate the sampling metering services by inducing bar-o-meter households to watch a particular channel and pay them periodically.
However, further investigation revealed how the top officials of BARC were allegedly involved in TRP manipulations in connivance with the channels’ officials. The police have already filed their chargesheet in the case.