Indian tax inspectors checked mobile phones and laptops used by some BBC employees.
Tax officers had remained in the BBC’s headquarters since Tuesday.
The tax department’s move came just weeks after the government responded sharply to a BBC documentary.
New Delhi: According to two sources, Indian tax inspectors checked mobile phones and laptops used by some BBC editorial and administrative employees on Thursday, as an investigation of the British broadcaster’s offices in New Delhi and Mumbai began its third day.
According to witnesses, tax officers had remained in the BBC’s headquarters, some sleeping there, since the surprise inspection began on Tuesday. Others said that some employees were questioned about financial activities late at night.
“They (officials) asked some of us to open their laptops and hand in phones and then handed them back,” one source told Reuters, adding that owners of the devices were asked for the access codes. A second source gave a similar account.
The tax department’s move came just weeks after the government responded sharply to a BBC documentary that raised doubts about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s role in the fatal sectarian riots in Gujarat in 2002 when he was the state’s chief minister.
The government dismissed the documentary, “India: The Modi Question“, as propaganda and blocked its streaming and sharing on social media.
The BBC has stood by its reporting, which looked into one of India’s worst outbreaks of religious violence in modern times. At least 1,000 people, predominantly Muslims, were slain in the bloodbath, however, campaigners believe the death toll is much higher.
The BBC has said that it was “fully cooperating” with the tax authorities, and an internal memo from BBC World Service director Liliane Landor instructed staff to answer questions honestly and “not delete or conceal any information on any of your devices.”
The tax department has not issued any statement or responded to requests for comment, though a government official denied that the tax survey was “vindictive”, saying it was related to transfer pricing rules and alleged diversion of profits.
Kanchan Gupta, a senior adviser at the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, told Times Now news channel on Wednesday that the BBC was served tax notices in the past but had not provided a “convincing response.”
Some foreign corporations have come under income tax scrutiny in recent years due to transfer pricing restrictions, but some media organizations and rights groups have criticized the BBC’s continued to probe.
“We demand that this intimidation be stopped and journalists are left to do their jobs without fear or favor,” the Mumbai Press Club said in a statement.
Tax officers in India raid BBC headquarters weeks after a scathing documentary
Weeks after the government slammed a BBC documentary Indian tax agents raided...