Culture

Gujarati TV Channel Accuses Trading Firm Hurt By Exposé of Resorting to Threats

VTV News was threatened and had snakes let out at its office after it ran a story accusing Kushal Tradelink of artificially jacking up its stock prices.

New Delhi: In an attempt to intimidate a news channel in Ahmedabad  for airing a story about stock market malpractice, a paper-trading company, Kushal Tradelink Limited (KTL), let out snakes at the channel’s offices, VTV News alleged on Friday.

In what appears to be an attempt at gagging the media, VTV News said that it has received numerous threat calls for running a story that accused KTL of artificially jacking up its stock prices at the Bombay Stock Exchange in November 2016, around the time the Modi government announced its demonetisation policy to neutralise black money.

In a press release, the channel said:

“… (KTL) first asked (VTV) to “block, dumb down or arrive at a settlement” for a news item. When VTV refused to cow down, at least 80 phone calls were made and then threats were sent through SMS. A SMS threat that “poisonous snakes will be let out and we will create panic” was sent. And then actually snakes were sent. The Gujarat government’s forest department was summoned by VTV (to rescue the snake).”

The news channel alleged that the company initially used its “clout” to influence the media house, before resorting to threats.

Speaking to The Wire, VTV News CEO Neeraj Attri said, “A number of people came to us claiming that KTL fooled them into buying their stocks in November and they have suffered huge losses. When we decided to investigate, we found that the KTL stocks recorded a steep rise from Rs 35 to Rs 620 after demonetisation.”

He added that VTV found that the company first used its cronies to buy its stocks at a heavily escalated price to shoot up its demand. “When the prices rose, many people thought they may invest their old Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes in the company. Many people told us that the company accepted old notes even after demonetisation,” Attri said.

According to the VTV story, soon after KTL made a killing, its stock price crashed, thereby, causing huge losses for investors.

The alleged “pump and dump” tactic helped KTL accrue huge profits.

KTL, a family-owned, Ahmedabad-based company, claims to have grown from a small paper-trading company to diverse businesses like infrastructure, asset reconstruction and raw material supply for various sectors. It also claims to have wholly-owned subsidiaries in Malaysia, UAE and Singapore.

“In keeping with the Hon’ble Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi’s vision of providing ‘Housing for All by 2022’, Kushal is providing housing security to thousands of people from the low income groups through the company’s infrastructure development projects in and around Ahmedabad and Surat,” the company’s website says.

Attri said VTV took adequate precautions before airing the story. “Only after multiple interviews with various aggrieved stakeholders of the company did VTV air the story on July 9. Yet, the company which should be responding to the allegation now is resorting to threats and harassment of a media house.”

“First, we got calls sayings that our company, our promoters, staffers and management will be destroyed and that they will have to not only quit Gujarat but the country if we do not pull the story off air. Then, shockingly, we received an SMS that poisonous snakes will be let out in our office. At around 8 pm, a person told one of our staffers over phone that a snake is already inside our campus. Later, our security informed us that a snake has been found. So we called the forest department to rescue the snake,” said Attri, adding that VTV has already filed a police complaint against KTL.

The story has so far received over 1.70 lakh hits on VTV’s social media pages.

In reply to The Wire‘s request for a response to VTV’s allegations, KTL replied:

“KTL humbly denies these allegations. As a corporate citizen we concentrate on our business and the focus is always on enhancing shareholder value. The growth in KTL’s business is testimony to our shareholders’ delight – number of shareholders have grown by 50% from 20,262 as on 31.03.2016 to 32,227 shareholders as on 31.03.2017.

“KTL’s business is growing from strength to strength – as on 31st March 2017 our revenues are up by 48.3% and profit before tax is up by 47.9%, and earnings per share (something that shareholders are happy about) is up by 42.8%. There have been 5 mergers & acquisitions in the last 6 months, we have delivered 451 homes to real estate home buyers, and Indian company KTL has proudly entered Malaysian markets. KTL growth story has just begun and nothing can stop it.”

Note: The story has been updated with KTL’s response.