The income tax “survey” at the BBC’s Delhi and Mumbai offices ended tonight after nearly three days of officials going through digital records and files. Some 10 employees, including the senior editors of Britain’s largest public broadcaster, returned home after spending three days at the office in central Delhi’s Kasturba Gandhi Marg.
The income tax department is likely to give a statement tomorrow. It has not issued any statement so far.
The tax officials have cloned the mobile phones of several BBC senior employees and scanned their desktops and laptops, sources have said.
They said the tax officials scanned the devices with keywords such as “tax”, “black money”, and “benami”, which refers to money changing hands without passing through the formal banking system.
“The Income Tax Authorities have left our offices in Delhi and Mumbai. We will continue to cooperate with the authorities and hope matters are resolved as soon as possible. We are supporting staff – some of whom have faced lengthy questioning or been required to stay overnight – and their welfare is our priority. Our output is back to normal and we remain committed to serving our audiences in India and beyond,” BBC’s press team tweeted.
“The BBC is a trusted, independent media organisation and we stand by our colleagues and journalists who will continue to report without fear or favour,” it said.
Update on India: pic.twitter.com/rghvE6OpfQ
— BBC News Press Team (@BBCNewsPR) February 16, 2023
The “survey” investigated possible issues linked to international taxation and transfer pricing of BBC’s subsidiary firms, sources said.
Some government officials and advisors have denied the tax survey was “vindictive”, saying it was related to transfer pricing rules and alleged diversion of profits. They say the BBC was served tax notices in the past but had not provided a convincing response.
The opposition parties have criticised the tax “survey” over its timing, since the officials trooped into the BBC building barely weeks after the BBC ran a docuseries on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the 2002 Gujarat riots.
The ruling BJP hit back, claiming the BBC has been running “venomous reporting”.
The Supreme Court last week dismissed a request seeking to ban the BBC in India. The court said the request was “entirely misconceived” and “absolutely meritless”.