Companies managed by the Indian businessman Anil Ambani have launched 26 lawsuits against politicians, journalists and information organisations, together with the Financial Times and Bloomberg, a pointy rejoinder to current media protection of his troubled Reliance group.
Once one in every of Asia’s wealthiest tycoons, Mr Ambani has seen his paper fortune fall sharply in worth as Reliance struggles with a heavy debt burden. His group has additionally confronted criticism from opposition politicians and the media over India’s €8bn buy of Rafale fighter jets from France’s Dassault, which concerned a partnership along with his defence enterprise.
Several of the lawsuits introduced by varied group corporations, all filed within the western metropolis of Ahmedabad, relate to protection of the fighter jet deal. These embrace a defamation declare searching for $1.4bn against NDTV, a outstanding tv information station. NDTV has described the transfer as “an unsophisticated warning to the media to stop doing its job”.
A spokesman for Mr Ambani’s Reliance group didn’t reply to a request for remark.
Scroll, an Indian web site that first reported the extent of Reliance’s authorized marketing campaign, mentioned that it had established the damages being claimed in 16 of the pending circumstances amounted to a complete of $11.4bn.
Other lawsuits relate to reviews on the monetary place of Mr Ambani’s Companies, particularly the troubled Telecom group Reliance Communications. Last December, RCom agreed to promote most of its core Telecom belongings to rival Jio, a subsidiary of Reliance Industries, managed by Mr Ambani’s brother Mukesh.
RCom is claiming $1.1bn in damages from the Financial Times over an FT report on the deal, which highlighted the 2 brothers’ contrasting fortunes since they divided their father’s enterprise empire between them in 2005. The firm has additionally named two FT journalists as defendants, although it has not formally served proceedings on them.
The market capitalisation of Anil Ambani’s corporations has dwindled to lower than $4bn, whereas Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries stands at $98.7bn.
RCom has additionally filed three lawsuits against Bloomberg News and a number of of its workers. Reliance Naval & Engineering, a shipbuilding firm, is individually suing James Crabtree, a former Financial Times journalist, over a commentary referring to RCom’s cope with Jio.
Meanwhile, Reliance corporations have introduced fits this 12 months against Indian information teams together with the Indian Express and Economic Times, and eight lawsuits against opposition politicians. Mr Ambani can also be suing Forbes Asia in his private capability.
Ahmedabad is a well-liked venue for defamation circumstances. Its courts cap charges at about $1,000, whatever the quantities being claimed. A power scarcity of judges in Indian courts signifies that such circumstances can drag on for many years with out decision. There are at the moment 2.18m energetic court docket circumstances which are greater than 10 years previous, based on the newest official information.
Some of the lawsuits are an try and “intimidate the media and ensure critical questions are not asked about the Rafale deal”, within the view of Siddharth Varadarajan, editor of reports web site The Wire, who’s among the many journalists being sued by Reliance corporations.
Controversy across the Rafale jet deal erupted in September after former French president Francois Hollande claimed the Indian authorities had insisted that Dassault choose Mr Ambani’s group as an area companion. Under “offset” guidelines, which require defence suppliers to make native investments, it shaped a three way partnership with Mr Ambani’s newly established Reliance Defence, to fabricate plane elements.
Domestic media and opposition politicians have questioned whether or not political connections helped Mr Ambani to safe the Dassault partnership, noting that Reliance Defence was integrated lower than two weeks earlier than the state go to to France on which Indian prime minister Narendra Modi agreed the jet buy.
Mr Modi’s authorities has strongly denied such options, as have each Dassault and Reliance.