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Foreign contributions to Teesta NGO: CBI to quiz Ford Foundation soon

The agency is probing an alleged foreign contribution of US$ 2.9 lakh given by Ford Foundation to Setalvad’s Sabrang Communications in violation of the norms under the Foreign Contributions (Regulation) Act (FCRA).

Written by Rashmi Rajput | Mumbai |
October 13, 2015 1:58:38 am
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The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) plans to soon quiz representatives of the US-based charity organisation Ford Foundation, extending its ambit of probe against social activist Teesta Setalvad in connection with the alleged funds embezzlement case involving her NGO Sabrang Communications.

The agency is probing an alleged foreign contribution of US$ 2.9 lakh given by Ford Foundation to Setalvad’s Sabrang Communications in violation of the norms under the Foreign Contributions (Regulation) Act (FCRA).

The agency claims Teesta’s Sabrang Communications & Publishing Pvt Ltd (SCPPL) received “foreign contribution” of US$2.9 lakh from Ford Foundation. These funds were allegedly received and spent in contrast to the provisions of the FCRA norms.

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In July this year, an FIR was lodged by the CBI after the home ministry found alleged discrepancies by Teesta’s two NGOs under FCRA. According to sources, the Sabrang Trust and the Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) (both run by Teesta and her husband Javed Anand) allegedly received foreign funds. This amount was allegedly diverted to the SCPPL.

The probe by the home ministry was undertaken after a letter sent by the Gujarat government detailing irregularities on part of the NGOs and seeking a thorough probe. Following this, a case was registered by the CBI under certain sections of the FCRA and the Indian Penal Code (IPC) against Teesta, Javed Anand and businessman Gulam Mohammed Peshimam, besides the SCPPL.
Subsequently, the agency also searched the official and residential premises of Teesta. The statements of Teesta and her husband have also been recorded by the agency.

Under the scanner are two contracts entered between Sabrang Communications and Ford Foundation in April 2004 and September 2006. “We need to quiz Ford Foundation representatives to know what prompted them to make a grant to Teesta’s firm. They will also be questioned on the two contracts entered between Ford Foundation and Teesta and if they were aware how the funds were disbursed? They will also be questioned on the point of why ‘foreign contribution’ was made to a firm not registered under FCRA and why the contracts failed to adhere to FCRA norms,” a senior official from the agency said.

“During the questioning, Teesta has agreed that contracts were entered between Ford Foundation and her NGO but has failed to give the details of the manner in which the funds were disbursed. There was no exclusive book of accounts for foreign contributions received and utilised maintained by her,” added the official. “Our probe has also revealed that the
funds were utilised towards publication of a periodical ‘Communalism Combat’ in which the two directors even contributed as columnists, which is in sharp contrast to the FCRA norms,” explained the source.

Javed Anand, however, refuted the CBI’s contention claiming that the probe was politically motivated and that the agreement between Sabrang Communications and Ford Foundation were consultancy contracts and therefore did not fall under the purview of FCRA.
“Sabrang Communications entered into consultancy agreements with Ford Foundation and therefore the said amount was actually consultancy fees paid by Ford Foundation. Consultancy fee is not ‘foreign contribution’ and therefore the provisions of the FCRA do not apply. We are questioning the very basis of the case and we feel it is politically motivated,” Javed told The Indian Express.
Teesta and Javed have been fighting a battle on behalf of the victims of the 2002 Gujarat riots.

On the point of maintaining separate books of accounts, Javed said since the agreement entered between the two parties was for a consultancy contract, a separate book of accounts was not necessary. “As it was not a foreign contribution received under FCRA, there was no need for maintaining a separate book of accounts. The I-T returns for the firm have been filed, inclusive of the expenditures made by the company,” he said.

Javed also clarified that the “money diverted” from Sabrang Trust and CJP to the SCPPL was for the purpose of reimbursement of shared expenses. “In 2002, when the CJP was formed, upon a request from the trustee of CJP, SPCCL agreed for a shared expenses towards reimbursements that were made time to time by SCPPL. It is ridiculous to allege that reimbursement of shared expense amounts to diversion of funds,” Javed added.

There was no response to a detailed email sent to Ford Foundation.

rashmi.rajput@expressindai.com

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