MUMBAI: The Mumbai crime branch, which is probing the TRP scam, told a magistrate’s court on Monday that one of the accused, a cable distributor from Thane, has admitted to paying Rs 15 lakh every month through a co-accused to select households to boost Republic TV’s viewership figures.
Ashish Choudhary, who owns Crystal Broadcast, also claimed he received money from hawala operators and has expressed his willingness to turn approver. Police made this disclosure in an application to the court while seeking Choudhary’s remand along with Abhishek Kolawade who runs a marketing firm, Max Media. Choudhary was arrested on October 28 after his name cropped up during Kolawade’s questioning.
The remand application says Kolawade was receiving Rs 15 lakh every month from Choudhary. Police declined to elaborate on the hawala payments saying the probe is in progress. Kolawade has allegedly admitted that he distributed the money received among other suspects — Ramji Verma, Dinesh Vishwakarma and Umesh Mishra — who in turn paid households, in which bar-o-meters were installed, to keep their TV sets tuned into Republic TV for the maximum duration.
The application also states that during investigations it has emerged that Kolawade accepted money from officials of Wow Music channel and Republic Bharat Hindi news channel between 2017 and July 2020.
A police officer said, “Kolawade also said he kept a few lakhs for himself and on his behest, we carried out a search of his residence on Sunday and recovered Rs 11.7 lakh.” Police said Choudhary’s interrogation led to recovery of Rs 2 lakh from his office in Thane. Police also recovered a laptop and pen drives in a search on the premises of the two accused. The court remanded Choudhary to judicial custody and extended the police custody of Kolawade till November 5.
Choudhary is the second person who would be turning approver, thus bolstering the prosecution’s case. Umesh Mishra, the other suspect allegedly involved in making payments to households, has also agreed to turn approver.
An approver is usually a co-accused who seeks a pardon after expressing ‘repentance’ and volunteers, without any threat or coercion, to disclose details of the conspiracy. A trial judge can allow an accused to turn approver if satisfied that his actions are voluntary. The crime branch is probing the role of Republic TV, Fakt Marathi, Box Cinema, News Nation, Maha Movies and Wow for inflating viewership figures, a key parameter that media-buying houses consider while placing advertisements.

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