Updated: May 12, 2022 2:19:59 am
A day after it raided 40 locations across the country in a case of alleged corruption in the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) arrested Wednesday 14 people, including six officials of MHA’s Foreigners Division, for allegedly helping NGOs get Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) clearance illegally.
“The CBI has arrested 14 accused, including six public servants, and recovered cash worth Rs 3.21 crore (approx), several incriminating documents, mobile phones etc. during searches at the premises of accused at around 40 locations including in Delhi, Haryana, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Himachal Pradesh, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Assam and Manipur etc.,” a CBI spokesperson said.
The agency registered an FIR in the matter on May 10 based on a complaint from the MHA about corruption in the FCRA department of the Foreigners Division. The case named 36 accused, including seven officials of the FCRA department. Representatives of various NGOs and middlemen were also named in the FIR.
According to the CBI, it is alleged that “some officials of the FCRA division in conspiracy with the promoters/representatives of different NGOs, middlemen, were indulging in corrupt activities for getting backdoor FCRA registration/renewal to NGOs illegally with an object to continue receiving donations despite not fulfilling the prescribed norms”. The CBI FIR said that these NGOs also generated fake invoices to justify their expenditure for the defined cause.
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The CBI FIR further alleged that some public servants were impersonating themselves as officers posted in the FCRA division and obtaining bribes from NGOs for facilitating their registration/renewal of registration under the FCRA and for other FCRA-related works. It named MHA official Parmod Kumar Bhasin, who earlier worked in the FCRA division, in this regard.
“During the investigation, two accused were caught while delivering and accepting the bribe amount of Rs 4 lakh on behalf of a senior accountant of the MHA, New Delhi. It was alleged that the delivery of bribe was done through a hawala operator and a close associate of the said public servant, at Avadi (Tamil Nadu). The arrested accused are being produced before the competent court,” the CBI spokesperson said.
The arrested public officials have been identified as Parmod Kumar Bhasin, senior accountant with the MHA who was earlier posted in the FCRA division; Alok Ranjan, senior AO, PAO, MHA, earlier worked in the FCRA division; Raj Kumar, accountant, FCRA; Md. Saheed Khan, assistant director, FCRA, Delhi; Md. Ghazanfar Ali, officer of the MHA, earlier posted in the FCRA Division; and Tushar Kanti Roy, official of the FCRA division.
All have been identified in the FIR as accused apart from Uma Shankar, an official posted with National Informatics Centre, who has not been arrested.
Office-bearers of various NGOs have also been named in the FIR. These NGOs include Coimbatore-based Ganga Medical Center and Hospital Pvt. Ltd; Vellore-based The Social Project; Ranchi-based Srijan Foundation; Tamil Nadu-based Ayries Multipurpose Social Service Society and Centre for Tribal & Rural Development Trust; Delhi-based Jahangirabad Educational Trust; Visakhapatnam-based Christian Life Centre Ministries; Vijayawada-based Harvest India; Manipur-based Reformed Presbyterian Church North East India; Guwahati-based NGO Nayi Roshni Foundation; and promoters of NGO Omidyar.
Apart from this, a consultancy firm M/s Shaurya Business Solutions Pvt Ltd based in Delhi and another firm M/s Mansi International Pvt Ltd have been named.
Notably, Omidyar had been put under prior permission category by the MHA last year even as the FCRA registration of Harvest India was suspended for alleged violation of the law.
Others arrested by the agency have been identified as Pawan Kumar Sharma; Ramanand Pareek, hawala operator based in Chennai; Robin Devadass of The Social Project; Ravi Shankar Ambastha, a Delhi resident; Manoj Kumar B A, a Hyderabad resident; Santosh Kumar Prasad and Amita Chandra, both directors of Shaurya Business Solutions; and Vageesh, a chartered accountant working in a hospital on behalf of Ganga Orthopaedic Research and Education Foundation.
The FIR recorded in detail how various NGOs offered bribes to officials to get clearances and how the bribe amounts were negotiated and exchanged.
The FIR identified Pradeep Kumar Bhasin as the key accused who regularly contacted NGOs whose registration renewal was pending with MHA and negotiated bribes between Rs 1-4 lakh to help them get their files cleared.
According to the CBI, another official, Alok Ranjan, worked in conspiracy with Ravi Shankar Ambastha and contacted Alfred Mohanty, administrator of Christian Life Centre Ministries, to help him resolve complaints of religious conversion against his NGO AMG India International. They allegedly demanded a bribe of Rs 15 lakh.
“There is information that they are also running (a) couple of firms in the name and style of M/s Immaculate Global Consultants (IGC) and M/s .ASRA Foundation using (the) residential address of Sh. Ravi Ambastha and phone numbers of both Ambastha and Alok Ranjan. Alok Ranjan is channelizing his ill-gotten money into M/s Mansi International Private Limited …being jointly managed by his wife Manisha Verma. Besides taking cash themselves, they take cash deposits in the account of Kamlesh, their Delhi based employee,” the FIR said.
The two had allegedly similarly contacted NGO Harvest India and negotiated a bribe of Rs 8 lakh to restore their license.
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