Two Zee editors arrested on extortion charges

NEW DELHI: The crime branch of Delhi Police on Tuesday arrested two editors of Zee group on charges of extortion based on a complaint filed by Congress MP Naveen Jindal. They are Sudhir Chaudhary, business head and editor of Zee News and Sameer Ahluwalia, head of Zee business, a senior police officer said.

S B S Tyagi, DCP (Crime Branch), said: “Prima facie evidence of criminal conspiracy and extortion has been found against the two leading to their arrest.” The Zee editors had earlier denied charges levelled against them.

The police said the arrests came after forensic experts submitted a report stating the CD containing the audio and video recording of the conversation between Zee editors and Jindal’s officials was “not doctored”. The inter-state cell of crime branch has found other conclusive evidence against the duo, it is claimed.

“The two editors were called for questioning on Tuesday during which they could not give satisfactory answers to our questions. They were informed around 8.30pm about their arrests after four hours of questioning. They will be produced in Saket court at 2pm on Wednesday,” a senior police officer said.

Earlier, Jindal Steel and Power Ltd (JSPL) had provided the police with audio recordings of telephonic conversation and video recording of three meetings held on September 13, 17 and 19 between Zee and JSPL officials at Hyatt Regency hotel in Delhi.

In their FIR, Naveen Jindal’s company JSPL had also named Essel Group chairman Subhash Chandra and his son Punit Goenka as co-accused, alleging criminal conspiracy, extortion, criminal intimidation and defamation by Zee News and its officials, police said.

In mid-October, the Broadcast Editors’ Association (BEA) had removed Sudhir Chaudhary from the post of treasurer and primary membership of the body.

The crime branch of Delhi Police had registered an FIR against the two office bearers and others for allegedly trying to extort Rs 100 crore from the Naveen Jindal. The FIR was lodged under sections of extortion after the HR head of Jindal’s company gave a written complaint to the police against the duo and others levelling allegations of extortion in form of advertisements to drop certain stories regarding the coal mine allocations.

The complainant had alleged that the duo reportedly met officials of Jindal group and told them that reports against them could be dropped if the amount was paid.

As per the complainant, several phone calls were exchanged. The complainant alleged that when they declined to pay up the money, the channel ran a series of malicious news items targeting them.

Reacting to the move, Sudhir Chauhary had earlier told TOI that the allegations were baseless, false and fabricated. “Jindals were the biggest beneficiaries in the coal block allocation scam and we had exposed them. If they are targeting us, they are targeting investigative journalism. It’s an attempt to malign us and seems a result of their frustration after being exposed,” he had said.