TRP scam: Police make ninth arrest for taking money, aiding wanted accused

The crime branch officials of Mumbai Police have made a ninth arrest in the Television Rating Points (TRP) scam on Thursday. Police arrested Harish Kamlakar Patil, 45, from Powai in connection with the scam for allegedly taking money to manipulate the TRP and also aid one of the absconding accused in the scam. Police also added the sections of harbouring an offender after arresting Patil.

According to the police, Patil's name cropped up during the interrogation of two former employees of Hansa Research Group, who revealed that Patil, who is the owner of Caps Lock Digital Solutions Private Limited, played a key role in moving money in the scam. A police officer said that it is suspected that Patil's company was one of the companies that provided money to rig the TRPs.

While Patil's company had a registered office address at Andheri, there was nothing found at the spot, which raises suspicions of it being a shell company, hinting at money laundering. A few financial transactions between Patil and the absconding accused Abhishek Kothawale alias Amit, who runs a company named Max Media, proves that he was in touch with the latter. The probe also revealed that Patil allegedly helped Kothawale to flee from the city.

Police said that Kothawale, who seems to not have his own phone, had worked for several channels with Umesh Mishra, including Republic, while changing names. Patil, who is a close aide of Kothawale, is on the vendor list of a company that has taken money from a channel to rig the TRPs. A number of suspicious transactions were found between Patil's company and the suspected channel, said an official.

"Caps Lock is in direct business with Kothawale, wherein Patil transferred money to the wanted accused, who then distributed the money further. Kothawale had purchased a SIM card in 2017 using a fake identity and was in constant touch with Patil, which makes him an accomplice to the crime," said police.

The alleged fake TRP scam came to light when the ratings agency Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) filed a complaint with the police through Hansa Research Group, alleging that certain channels were rigging TRP numbers to lure advertisers. Police had already made eight arrests in the case, including those of channel heads and Hansa Research Group's former employees.

(To download our E-paper please click here. The publishers permit sharing of the paper's PDF on WhatsApp and other social media platforms.)

Free Press Journal