Indian authorities accuse BBC of tax evasion after searches

NEW DELHI — India’s Finance Ministry accused the BBC of tax evasion on Friday, Feb. 17, 2023, saying that it had not fully declared its income and profits from its operations in the country.

Indian tax authorities ended three days of searches of the British broadcaster’s New Delhi and Mumbai offices on Thursday night. Opposition political parties and other media organizations have criticized the searches as an attempt to intimidate the media.

Critics of Prime Minister Narendra Modi have also questioned the timing of the searches, which came weeks after the BBC aired a documentary in the UK that was critical of Modi.

“The department gathered several evidences pertaining to the operation of the organization which indicate that tax has not been paid on certain remittances which have not been disclosed as income in India by the foreign entities of the group,” the Central Board of Direct Taxes said in a statement.

It said they found “several discrepancies and inconsistencies“ and had gathered “crucial evidence” from statements of employees, digital evidence and documents which would be examined more fully later.

The statement also accused the BBC of not paying full taxes on the earnings of employees who came from abroad and worked in India for short durations.

The BBC said in a statement that it would “respond appropriately to any direct formal communication received from the Income Tax Department.”

The leader of India’s main opposition Congress party, Mallikarjun Kharge, described the search of the BBC offices as an assault on freedom of the press under Modi’s government.

In a statement on Thursday, Reporters Without Borders, an international media watchdog, said: “These raids have all the appearance of a reprisal against the BBC for releasing a documentary critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi three weeks ago.”

The documentary, “India: The Modi Question,” was broadcast in the UK last month, examining the prime minister’s role in 2002 anti-Muslim riots in the western state of Gujarat, where he was chief minister at the time. More than 1,000 people were killed in the violence.

Modi has denied allegations that authorities under his watch allowed and even encouraged the bloodshed and the Supreme Court said it found no evidence to prosecute him. (AP)