The Central government has granted sanction to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to prosecute Amnesty International India and its former head, Aakar Patel, for alleged violations of Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) provisions.
The agency had filed a chargesheet in the case on December 31, 2021, and sought the government’s approval to prosecute the organisation as required under Section 40 of the FCRA. The court is scheduled to take up the matter on April 18.
After filing the chargesheet, the CBI had issued a Look-Out Circular against Mr. Patel, based on which he was stopped by the immigration officials at the Bengaluru airport from taking a flight to the United States. A city court ordered withdrawal of the circular. However, it was overturned by a Special Judge, who directed Mr. Patel to not leave the country without the court’s permission.
On a reference from the Ministry of Home Affairs, the CBI had registered the case on November 5, 2019. Among those named as accused were Amnesty International India Private Limited (AIIPL) through its directors; Indians for Amnesty International Trust (IAIT) through its office-bearers; Amnesty International India Foundation Trust (AIIFT) through its office-bearers; and Amnesty International South Asia Foundation (AISAF) through its directors and others.
The case alleged FCRA violations, involving ₹36 crore, in receiving funds from Amnesty International-UK through AIIPL, despite the fact that prior registration or permissions had been denied to AIIFT and other Trusts. Amnesty International-UK and some other entities based in the United Kingdom sent funds to Amnesty India allegedly via commercial channels.
According to the agency, Amnesty India received the funds under scrutiny for three purposes: service contract, advance income and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) through automatic route. While ₹10 crore was received as FDI, the rest as payment for various consultancy services.
It was alleged that Amnesty International-UK invested ₹10 crore in AIIPL in September 2015. The amount was kept in fixed deposit, on the basis of which the Trust got an overdraft facility for ₹14.25 crore. These funds were used for non-government organisation activities.
(With PTI inputs)