CBI raids Amnesty India offices in Bengaluru and New Delhi
"The CBI on Friday conducted searches at the offices of Amnesty International India Private Limited and Indians for Amnesty International Trust in Bengaluru and New Delhi," said Amnesty India in a statement.
The agency registered a case on November 5 on a complaint received from Ministry of Home Affairs(Govt. of India) against M/s. Amnesty International India Pvt. Ltd (AIIPL); M/s Indians For Amnesty International Trust (IAIT); M/s Amnesty International India Foundation Trust (AIIFT); M/s Amnesty International South Asia Foundation (AISAF) & Unknown others
It is alleged that the provision of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010 and Indian Penal Code were contravened by the aforesaid entities by receiving foreign contributions from M/s Amnesty International U.K through AIIPL even though prior registration or permissions were denied to M/s Amnesty International India Foundation Trust (AIIFT) and other Trusts under FCRA, CBI sources said.
Entrusting the case to CBI, MHA in its order had said that in order to evade FCRA, Amnesty (UK) remitted Rs 10 crore to Amnesty’s Indian entities classified as FDI, without MHA’s approval.
It further said “another Rs 26 crore has been remitted to Amnesty (India) primarily from UK based entities without MHA’s approval. Amnesty has made several attempts to obtain prior permission or registration under FCRA. The same was not granted. In reaction to repeated denials, Amnesty used commercial methods to evade FCRA”
The order further read “Amnesty (India) received funds for three purposes namely Service Contract, Advance income and FDI through automatic route which are mainly used by commercial entities. Of the total 36 crores of foreign funds received, 10 crores remitted as FDI, Rs 26 crore as payment for consultancy services of which Rs 3.5 crore was shown as advance income in 2016-17. Amnesty International (UK) invested Rs 10 crore in Amnesty International India on September 24, 2015 and this was classified as “Compulsory Convertible Debentures (CCD) and shown in balance sheet and IT returns as long term borrowings. This amount was immediately placed in FDs”.
The MHA order further said “inspection of books of Amnesty International revealed that the Association had indulged in such activities which were not commensurate to the activities of a for-profit company but would prima facie amount to circumvent the provisions of FCRA”.
The MHA order also mentioned that the interim report prepared by Enforcement Directorate (ED) against Amnesty intimated that the Civil Society Work (charitable activities) are being carried out by Amnesty International (India) “on huge profit on commercial lines and he funds for these activities are obtained in garb of remittances against export of services.”
It adds “in the instant case, FDI to the tune of Rs 10 crore has been used to create an overdraft facility to the tune of Rs 14.25 crore for M/s Indians for Amnesty International Trust (IAIT) by keeping Rs 10 crore FD as collateral. The interim report of ED also revealed that Amnesty had indulged in such activities which were not commensurate to the activities of a for-profit company but would prima facie amount to circumvent the provisions of the FCRA”.
Handing over the case to CBI, MHA said “if during the course of the investigation, it comes to the notice of the CBI that violations of other specific statutes like The Income Tax Act, the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, have also taken place, CBI may send suitable references to the competent authorities administering those relevant Acts for appropriate follow up action”.
CBI’s raids come a year after the Enforcement Directorate (ED) raided two premises of Amnesty International over alleged violation of India’s foreign exchange laws.
In a press statement, Amnesty said “over the past year, a pattern of harassment has emerged every time Amnesty India stands up and speaks out against human rights violations in India.”
“Amnesty India stands in full compliance with Indian and international law. Our work in India, as elsewhere, is to uphold and fight for universal human rights. These are the same values that are enshrined in the Indian Constitution and flow from a long and rich Indian tradition of pluralism, tolerance, and dissent,” the statement said.
It added that “as part of the Nobel Prize-winning movement, Amnesty India holds itself to the highest evidentiary standards. Over four million Indians have supported Amnesty India’s work in the last six years and around 100,000 Indians have made financial contributions. Our work in India, as elsewhere, is to uphold universal human rights and build a global movement of people who take injustice personally.”
In September, ED issued a show cause notice to Amnesty on account of alleged violation of FEMA under Borrowing and Lending Regulations to the tune of Rs 51. 72 crores for rendering civil society activities in India by getting remittances from parent body Amnesty International UK in the garb of export of services.
The global human rights organisation said last year that ED has frozen its bank accounts and that it has become “the latest target of the government’s assault on civil society.”
ED has alleged that Amnesty India bypassed the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act to float a commercial entity – Amnesty International India Private Ltd.