There are transactions showing funds flowing into the bank account of Bamopalli Rao Mistry, an arrested accused, every month from channels under probe and a few individuals as well, said a crime branch investigator.
He said police will now summon senior officials at the channels and other individuals for questioning regarding the TRP scam. “We have seen the financial transaction reports of Mistry’s bank account and have found that every month more than Rs 30 lakh collectively was transferred to Mistry’s account from various persons/channels.”
A special investigation team (SIT) team led by assistant commissioner Shashank Sandbhor and assistant inspector Sachin Waze are probing the case. They have arrested six persons so far, including three former employees of Hansa Research Group — Vishal Bhandari, Vinay Tripathy and Umesh Mishra. Hansa had a contract from the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) to track viewership response with bar-o-meters installed in 44,000 households across the country. Mumbai police commissioner Parambir Singh has also confirmed that three witnesses have made confessional statements to police saying they were paid to watch Republic TV.
“Vishal was responsible for 83 bar-o-meters installed at households, and Mishra and Tripathi, while working with Hansa, were responsible for around 100 barometers each. Mishra and Tripathi quit Hansa in 2017. After leaving the job, they joined Mistry and were working for him,” said an investigating officer.
Mistry who used to work in film production houses, Fakht Marathi channel owner Shirish Shetty and Box Cinema owner Narayan Sharma are the other accused who are in police custody.
Earlier, investigators had said money was being transferred into Mistry’s account every two months, but now it appears fund flow was higher. “We have got his bank account details and found transfers to Mistry’s account every month. The collective amount is high,” said the officer.
Speaking about Mistry’s connections with TV channels, the officer claimed that he frequently visited the offices of several channels. “He has been getting money for the last two years and is involved in TRP rigging. Most of the money transferred to his account would be distributed to others to hand out to households who agreed to watch specific channels,” the officer said. While Mistry’s account details are being studied by crime branch and economic offences wing officers, transaction details will be examined by a forensic auditor, he added.