After Adani verdict, media revives Soros spectre, tries to attribute it to SC

A ToI report says SC discarded a report by ‘India-baiter Soros-linked OCCRP’. NewsX asks ‘who will probe Soros et al’.

WrittenBy:Aban Usmani
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On a day the Supreme Court granted relief to the Adani Group over petitions seeking an SIT probe into the Hindenburg report’s allegations, sections of the media seemed to revive the spectre of George Soros even when the billionaire hedge fund investor had found no mention in the 46-page verdict.

On a show anchored by senior executive editor Shiv Aroor on India Today, the thumbnail said, “Court: Soros-funded reports can’t doubt Adani probe”. The headline on the YouTube channel said “Supreme Court dismisses influence of Soros-funded reports in Adani probe”.

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The anchor seemed to put words into the court’s mouth. “The Supreme Court today said that the news report about the Adani organisation, a report that was allegedly funded by billionaire George Soros, cannot be the basis for doubting the existing probe into the Adani Group,” he said.

Meanwhile, articles on the Adani-owned NDTV’s Hindi and English portals too seemed to imply that the court had said that the George Soros-led OCCRP’s report can’t be the basis to doubt the SEBI probe. 

NDTV Group executive editor Vishnu Som, discussing the verdict on his show, said that “this appears to be a clean chit for the Adani Group. That’s what several SEBI experts on this program have also suggested.”

To his credit, Som clarified that the adjectives used for the OCCRP report are not the court’s remarks.

On the Supreme Court’s observation that investigative media reports “cannot be relied on as conclusive proof of the inadequacy of the investigation by SEBI”, the anchor said that “scurrilous reports – that’s my word, not what the court had used – cannot come in the way of harming small investors”.

The channel, also to its credit, had a disclaimer about it being owned by the Adani Group on screen several times.

Meanwhile, the first paragraph of an article on the Times of India website said the Supreme Court “discarded as inauthentic a report by India-baiter George Soros-linked OCCRP, which was relied upon by the media to lend credence to Hindenburg Research’s claim”.

Interestingly, a report by the same journalist on the front page flap of the Times of India had no such adjectives for the OCCRP.

On NewsX, executive editor Megha Sharma’s show asked “who will probe Soros et al?”

“The Adani Group of companies has all been absolved of all the charges. But here is the bigger question…what comes as a cause of concern when manipulation of financial instruments is used as a weapon of war to attack a country, its economy, and its financial health.”

“Proxy war was waged on India,” read the ticker.

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WION, in a report on the verdict, said the “apex court said there was ‘no ground to transfer the investigation from SEBI to SIT, adding the George Soros-led Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP)’s report cannot be used as a basis for a report by a statutory body like SEBI.”

A report on Republic World noted that the Chief Justice of India “discredited the report by the George Soros-backed OCCRP”.

An opinion piece on the ET Government website tried to draw a link between the Hindenburg report, OCCRP and Khalistan proponent Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, suggesting that they were all out to harm the Indian economy.

“It is quite unacceptable that the Hindenburg group and OCCRP are going scot free with no investigations on their intent and motivation for their respective reports and the baseless allegations that they had made.” 

Adani, Soros, media, and what the SC actually said

The OCCRP reports had tried to establish allegations of stock manipulation by the Adani Group and lapses on part of SEBI. Days before they were published, the Adani Group had hit out at an “extended campaign” to “advance vested interests”, to imply a bias in the investigation.

The reports were also part of the petitions before the Supreme Court which sought a court-monitored SIT probe. Investigative reports by the press can act as inputs for SEBI but cannot be taken as credible evidence or a proof of regulatory failure by SEBI and it cannot cast doubt on the investigation being carried on by a statutory body, the top court said on Wednesday while dismissing the petitions.

“To assail the adequacy of SEBI’s investigation thus far, the petitioner has sought to rely on a report published by OCCRP and various newspapers referring to the report. The petitioner’s case appears to rest solely on inferences from the report by the OCCRP, a third-party organisation involved in ‘investigative reporting’. The petitioners have made no effort to verify the authenticity of the claims,” the order said.

“The reliance on newspaper articles or reports by third-party organisations to question a comprehensive investigation by a specialised regulator does not inspire confidence. Such reports by ‘independent’ groups or investigative pieces by newspapers may act as inputs before SEBI or the Expert Committee. However, they cannot be relied on as conclusive proof of the inadequacy of the investigation by SEBI. Nor, as the petitioners state, can such inputs be regarded as “credible evidence”. The veracity of the inputs and their sources must be demonstrated to be unimpeachable. The petitioners cannot assert that an unsubstantiated report in the newspapers should have credence over an investigation by a statutory regulator whose investigation has not been cast into doubt on the basis of cogent material or evidence,” stated the order by the bench of Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and Justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra.

Newslaundry had republished the OCCRP story on August 31 last year, an investigation into alleged stock manipulation by four Adani companies between 2013 and 2017.

Last year, billionaire hedge fund investor Soros was in the eye of a political storm in India with his comments on the Narendra Modi government and the Adani Group. Predictably enough, a large section of TV media chose to follow the government’s line about the billionaire’s remarks being an “attack on India” and took it a notch up – Soros, BBC, Hindenburg were described as part of an international ‘tukde tukde’ gang with local support from who else but Indian liberals and Opposition parties.

Read all about it here.

Among many conspiracy theories against him is also one that suggests he is a “Nazi”. Read this to understand why the conspiracy theory, repeated by anchors such as Arnab Goswami, is nothing more than a pack of lies.

Goswami had also said that “the allegedly evil Soros, has given a lot of money to a lot of people in the Indian news and especially the Indian digital news ecosystem”, aka #SorosMedia. He said #SorosMedia was dishonest about taking money from Soros through forex transfers, entities operating in tax havens, escrow accounts, and debt financing.

In 2021, sections of the media had tried to suggest a link between Soros and the farm protests toolkit tweeted by the Swedish climate advocate Greta Thunberg and edited by jailed Indian environmental activist Disha Ravi. Watch this to understand the thorough research that went into the making of those reports.

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