Police ask Zee boss to join ‘extortion’ probe, get 2-day custody of executives
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Zee News editor and business head Sudhir Chaudhary and Zee Business editor and business head Sameer Ahluwalia were Wednesday remanded in police custody for two days by a local court after the Crime Branch of Delhi Police said it wanted to question them about the alleged "larger conspiracy" in the extortion case involving Congress MP Naveen Jindal.
Police sources said the Crime Branch had also sent a notice three days ago to Zee group chairman Subhash Chandra, asking him to join investigations after an analysis of phone call records allegedly showed that the Zee executives had spoken to Chandra immediately after their first meeting with Jindal in connection with the alleged extortion bid.
Police sources said the executives and Chandra spoke for 286 seconds, which led them to request Chandra to join the investigation. Chandra, they said, responded on Tuesday, requesting that he be excused for the moment as he was busy. He is believed to have said he would join investigations after December 2. The Crime Branch is preparing a second notice that would be sent to Chandra soon, the sources said.
The two editors were arrested Tuesday following a complaint by Jindal Steel and Power Ltd (JSPL) on October 2, alleging that they had demanded Rs 100 crore in committed advertising in return for dropping an investigation launched by their two channels on the alleged undue benefits to Jindal in the allotment of coal blocks by the UPA government.
JSPL had given police video and audio recordings of at least three meetings between its officials and Chaudhary and Ahluwalia on September 13, 17 and 19 at Delhi's Hyatt Regency hotel. The Rs 100 crore demand was made during these meetings, JSPL alleged.
Zee has denied the allegations and said the arrests are an attempt to gag the media on the basis of a fraudulent and contrived complaint.