A team led by API Sachin Waze recorded the statements of Praveen Nijhara, CEO of Hansa Research Group Pvt Ltd, and Hansa’s deputy general manager Nitin Deokar, who is the complainant in this case. On Monday, statements of Republic TV group CEO Vikas Khanchandani and the channel’s distribution head Ghanshyam Singh were also recorded for the second consecutive day. On Sunday, the police had questioned Khanchandani and Republic COO Hersh Bhandari in Mumbai, while Ghanshyam Singh had been questioned in Daman.
“One of the arrested accused, Vishal Bhandari, told us that he would receive money from Tripathi to distribute it among households who were asked to watch specific TV channels,” said a Mumbai police officer. Police said that Bompallirao Mistri has emerged as the key person who operated the racket at the insistance of TV channels. He used to operate through Tripathi and Bhandari, police said. Four more persons are under the scanner, police added. Republic TV, Fakt Marathi and Box Cinema are being probed for rigging the viewership.
Among the four people arrested earlier were heads of Fakt Marathi and Box Cinema. Police said Tripathi worked with Hansa as relationship manager for four years and left the job in 2018 even before Bhandari had joined Hansa as relationship manager. “In June this year, Hansa found some suspicious trend in the TRPs and conducted an internal inquiry. At this juncture, Tripathi left Mumbai for Uttar Pradesh. He was not employed with Hansa at the time of the agency’s internal inquiry,” the police officer said. Tripathi’s call data records show he was in touch with Bhandari from November 2019 to March 2020.
A police team comprising officers Santosh Kotwal, Riyaz Qazi, Prakash Howad, Nitin Londhe and Subhash Mutthe arrested Tripathi. He will be produced before a Mirzapur court on Tuesday for transit remand and brought to Mumbai.
Meanwhile, Republic TV chief financial officer Shiva Sundaram has sent a letter to Mumbai police stating that he would join the investigation on Tuesday. Priya Mukherjee, the CEO of Republic TV, did not turn up on Monday citing health issues.
Police said statements of 36 people have been recorded so far, and four bank accounts of Box Cinema and Fakt Marathi have been frozen.