Enforcement Directorate officials conducted searches of the Bengaluru office of Amnesty India on Thursday in connection with suspected violation of rules under the Foreign Exchange Management Act in the use of funds received from abroad through commercial routes.
Sleuths arrived at the office at Indiranagar around 2 p.m. on Thursday, and were reportedly perusing through documents kept at the office as well as laptops and other electronic devices being used there. The raids continued till late in the night.
The action had been taken after a reference from the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) unit of the Ministry of Home Affairs to the Department of Revenue, under which the ED functions.
In 2011-12, the Amnesty International India Foundation Trust had been granted permission under the Act to receive foreign contributions of ₹1.69 crore from Amnesty International-UK. However, the approval for more receipts was denied on the basis of “adverse” inputs from security agencies.
In a release, ED states that after permission was denied, they “resorted to bypass the FCRA Act” by floating a commercial entity in the name of Amnesty International India Pvt. Ltd (AIIPL) “This entity has received foreign funds through commercial route to the extent of ₹36 crore till date, (of which) ₹10 crore was received as long term loans. This amount was immediately placed in FDs. and another Indian entity,” says a statement by ED.
Indians for Amnesty International Trust then established an overdraft facility for ₹14.25 crore keeping ₹10.00 crore FD as collateral which means the receipt of FDI by trust only. The remaining ₹26.00 crore was received in two accounts of AIIPL as "consultancy services". “The inwards remittances received by the AIIPL from overseas is in violation of FDI guidelines. In this background, searches are conducted at their Bengaluru office today and further investigation is in progress,” says ED.
Amnesty International was yet to comment on the matter.
Greenpeace says ‘pattern’ in searches
The searches closely follows an operation in the Greenpeace India Society office in the city. The case pertains to alleged violations of Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999 and FCRA. Greenpeace has challenged the matter in the Chennai High Court.
However, their bank accounts have been frozen since. “This is a pattern where the government clampsdown on any organisation working for social justice. ED could not find any proof for their allegations in the documents taken from our office, but it becomes clear that they want to stop our local resource mobilisation,” says Greenpeace after the Amnesty raids.