Raising questions of ownership and conflict of interest, BJP MP Jayant Sinha, who chairs the powerful Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance, offered his services to an entertainment company for an undisclosed monthly fee, for which he also offered to help secure “sufficient financing on the correct terms.”
On February 12, records show, Sinha wrote to B4U Network CEO Ishan Saksena in connection with Tiger Media, a company connected to B4U, after a meeting with NRI investor Arminder Singh Sawhney in which they reportedly discussed the project.
“I will dedicate significant time to this project,” Sinha wrote. “My goal is to assist Tiger Media in becoming a true champion in the global entertainment industry…My pricing for this project would be Rs XX lakhs per month plus GST. I would bill you at the end of every month.” He told Saksena that he might start work on March 1.
Sinha wrote that the main goals of the partnership were to create a business strategy for Tiger Media to take advantage of the “disruptive trends roiling the global media and entertainment industry,” and secure funding.
Sinha was Minister of State for Finance from November 2014 to July 2016, when, before the end of the Modi government’s first term, he became MoS Civil Aviation.
Sinha has served as the chair of the Parliamentary Standing Committee for Finance since September 2019. With 21 Lok Sabha members and 10 Rajya Sabha members, the task of the committee is to provide legislative oversight, in addition to Niti Aayog, of the policies and decision-making of the Ministries of Finance, Corporate Affairs, Statistics and Program Implementation.
It reviews bills introduced by the ministries concerned and, as chairperson, Sinha has a say in calling for deposition by the heads of private and public sector banks and sectoral regulators.
When The Indian Express asked about the ownership of such an assignment, Sinha said: “Members of Parliament routinely continue their professions. My profession is that of a management consultant providing strategic inputs through speeches and advisory assignments. To avoid any conflicts, I only accept advisory assignments dealing with strategic issues outside of India. I do not do any work for any firms in the financial sector. I also do not undertake any assignments focused on any type of financial transactions.”
Incidentally, his letter to Saxena notes that he would assist Tiger Media “to secure adequate financing on the right terms.”
“I have known Arminder Singh Sawhney for more than 25 years. We had initiated preliminary discussions on providing inputs to Tiger Media on its global strategy.No agreement has been finalized and no work has been undertaken so far,” Sinha told The Indian Express. “All my professional work is fully disclosed to the appropriate tax and regulatory authorities. As is standard professional practice, client matters are confidential.”
A Tiger Media spokesperson, responding on behalf of Saksena, told The Indian Express: “Tiger Media is an international group, subject to legal requirements across multiple jurisdictions. Arminder Singh Sawhney is not an investor in Tiger Media or any of our group entities. There is no other relationship between our group and him. For ethical and legal reasons our group does not engage any politically affiliated person for seeking any services anywhere in the world. Hence, there is no question of approaching any politically affiliated person for engagement of any nature.”
The business registrar’s records show the addresses of Sawhney in Delhi, London and Bangkok. He was ranked 31st with a $3.97 million deposit in the Swiss Leak list of 100 Indians with Swiss bank accounts in 2015. It was not possible to contact Sawhney for comments via his Delhi-based accounting company.
Launched in the UK in 1999 and in India in 2003, B4U claims to be the world’s premier Asian network for pioneering Bollywood and Indian entertainment. Since then, “across multiple platforms, including TV, cinema, press, new media and digital,” the brand has diversified. Today, the network is available in over 100 countries, with over 200 million viewers.