Former CEO of Fox's Star India Charged With Murder of Stepdaughter

Peter Mukerjea

Former CEO, Star India

Peter Mukerjea, who ran the Indian TV giant for eight years until 2007, is charged for allegedly having been a co-conspirator in the murder of Sheena Bora, the daughter of his second wife, Indrani, who is also in custody.

Peter Mukerjea, the former CEO of 21st Century Fox's Star India network, has been charged with the murder of his stepdaughter, Sheena Bora.

The charges are the latest development in a sensational case, which first made headlines last August when Sheena's mother — Mukerjea's second wife, Indrani — was arrested as the prime suspect.

Further investigations soon led to the arrest of Indrani's alleged conspirators: her former husband, Sanjeev Khanna, and her driver, Shyamvar Rai. Last November, Mukerjea was also arrested and questioned by India's Central Bureau of Investigation for his alleged involvement.

According to local reports, the CBI said in its charge sheet that Mukerjea, who remains in custody, was also part of the conspiracy to kill the 25-year-old woman.

Mukerjea has claimed innocence since his initial arrest, adding that he was out of the country when the alleged murder took place. He was quoted by The Indian Express as saying, "I have nothing to do with the case and was not aware of the conspiracy."

Sheena was first thought to be Peter Mukerjea's sister-in-law until it was revealed that she was Indrani's daughter from an earlier relationship with Siddharth Das. Sheena was given Indrani's family surname Bora in an attempt to pass her off as a sister.

This was just one of the twists and turns that the case has unraveled ever since an unidentified and reportedly burnt body was found in a village outside Mumbai in May 2012. Following investigations, by Aug. 2015, the body was identified as Sheena, who had been missing for three years. But Peter and Indrani Mukerjea claimed that she had left India and was overseas.

In addition to the the charges filed against Peter Mukerjea, local reports also indicated that the CBI is expected to file another charge sheet against the former media executive.

Peter Mukerjea was one of India's most powerful TV executives when he was CEO of the Star India network from 1999-2007. He began his career in marketing and advertising with stints in the U.K., India and Hong Kong, where he first joined the newly launched Star TV network in 1993 as sales director.

When Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. (before its split a few years ago into Fox and News Corp) bought the fledgling Star TV from promoter Richard Li, son of Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing, for $950 million in 1993, the move was seen as a wild make-or-break gamble for Murdoch. Mukerjea was given the challenge of establishing the network in India and was relocated to Mumbai to head its advertising sales division.

He was subsequently appointed CEO and propelled the network to a leadership position by gambling on local programming initiatives that included family soap operas. But the show that changed Murdoch's fortunes in India was the Hindi version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, which bowed in 1999, hosted by Bollywood icon Amitabh Bachchan.

The highly popular show shot the network's flagship Hindi entertainment channel StarPlus to the top. By Millionaire's fourth season, the show shifted to rival Sony Entertainment Television, which aired its latest season in 2014.

Mukerjea resigned from Star in 2007 to pursue his own broadcasting venture with Indrani, whom he married in 2002. He had ended his first marriage in 1994 to Shabnam Singh, with whom he has two sons.

Peter and Indrani Mukerjea launched the INX network, which was sold to a local venture, Indi Media Network, in 2009. The Mukerjeas subsequently sold their stake and resigned from the company.

Star India hasn't commented on the case.