ED searches Amnesty office in foreign funds probe

Sources told The Indian Express that ED officials visited the Amnesty office Thursday afternoon and seized the computers of management staff, restricted communications and searched the premises.

By: Express News Service | Bengaluru | Updated: October 26, 2018 4:30:46 am
ED searches Amnesty office in foreign funds probe Outside the Amnesty International office building in Bengaluru Thursday (PTI Photo/Shailendra Bhojak) 

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) said Thursday that it carried out searches at the head office of Amnesty International India in Bengaluru as part of an investigation into foreign funding for the human rights organisation.

ED joint director in Bengaluru, Raman Gupta, confirmed that searches were conducted at Amnesty’s office in the city.

In an official statement issued Thursday night, the ED accused the Amnesty International India Foundation Trust of trying to circumvent norms under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) after they were denied “permission/registration under FCRA 2010 by MHA” by creating a commercial entity called Amnesty International India Pvt Ltd (AIIPL) to receive foreign funding.

According to the ED statement, the commercial entity of Amnesty International India allegedly “received foreign funds through (the) commercial route to the extent of Rs 36 crore till date”. Out of that, Rs 10 crore was received as a long term loan and placed in fixed deposits while another Indian entity Indians for Amnesty International Trust established an overdraft facility for Rs 14.25 crore with the Rs 10 crore as collateral, the ED alleged.

“The remaining Rs 26 crore was received in two separate bank accounts of AIIPL as consultancy services. The inward remittances received by AIIPL from overseas is in violation of FDI guidelines. In this, background searches were conducted at the Bengaluru office today and further investigation is in progress,” the ED statement claimed.

Amnesty International is yet to issue a statement on the ED’s charges. Sources told The Indian Express that ED officials visited the Amnesty office Thursday afternoon and seized the computers of management staff, restricted communications and searched the premises.

In March, Minister of State (Home) Kiren Rijiju told Parliament that Amnesty International India was among 21 NGOs that were served questionnaires by his Ministry as part of a probe under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act 2010. The FCRA unit of the Home Ministry subsequently referred Amnesty International India to the Finance Ministry for further investigation.

Amnesty International India has been vocal in its protests against restrictions placed on foreign funding of NGOs in India. In 2016, following curbs placed on foreign funding for 25 NGOs by the central government, Amnesty International India executive director Aakar Patel had said: “The ability to access foreign funding is integral to the rights to free association and expression, which can only be restricted under narrowly specified grounds. The Home Ministry’s decision to prevent NGOs from receiving foreign funding without sound justification is mystifying. The Ministry has an obligation to show how these restrictions are necessary and proportionate.”

Amnesty International India is the second major NGO with offices in Bengaluru that has come under the ED scanner this month. In October, the ED conducted searches at the offices of Greenpeace India as part of investigations into alleged violation of FEMA rules in the receipt of foreign funding by the NGO and a firm allegedly affiliated with it.

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