Wednesday 25 May 2022
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CBI catches MHA officials suspected to be helping shady NGOs red-handed

The agency has detected illegal transactions worth about Rs 2 crore routed through hawala channels, said the CBI after searches in Delhi, Rajasthan, Chennai and Mysore among other places

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The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has detained 10 people, including five government officials, for taking bribes on behalf of non-government organisations (NGOs), thus violating rules of receiving foreign donations under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), sources in the agency said today after its big nationwide crackdown across 40 locations.

CBI sources said the officials of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) gave illegal FCRA clearances to NGOs in exchange for bribes.

The sources said that public officials from the home ministry, NGO representatives and some middlemen were caught red-handed receiving bribes for illegally securing foreign funding clearances. Twelve NGOs are under investigation, said the premier investigation agency.

As per the complaint, bribes were paid to lower-level officials in the foreign division that deals with FCRA clearance. The middlemen took money from NGOs who were denied FCRA clearance and paid the government officials to provide them with the approved licence. So far, no senior officials were found linked with the case.

The agency has detected illegal transactions worth about Rs 2 crore routed through hawala channels, said the CBI after searches in Delhi, Rajasthan, Chennai and Mysore, among other places.

The CBI conducted the raids after it was tipped off by the MHA. So far, the agency has apprehended around 14 persons including officials and NGO representatives in connection with the case, officials told PTI. Six MHA officials are likely to be arrested, sources said.

NGOs under CBI scanner

Srijan Foundation in Jharkhand, Jahangirabad Educational Trust in Delhi and Reformed Presbyterian Church in Manipur’s Churachandpur are some of the NGOs that are in the dock for allegedly bribing officials to get their FCRA license renewed, officials said.

The Srijan Foundation (SF), a Jharkhand-based NGO was “formed by a group of socially committed young professionals in 1995 and formally registered on 7 February 2001 under the Indian Trust Act 1882, according to its official website. “Since inception, SF has been working directly with the community, particularly with women and children, struggling with poverty, social exclusion and gender injustice,” it read.

The Jahangirabad Educational Trust was established in 2001 in Delhi “to support the cause of Technical and Professional Education with a focus on isolated segments of society in and minority community in particular,” its website stated.

The Reformed Presbyterian Church in Manipur’s Churachandpur on its site states it imparts “vocational training since 1979.”

CBI sources said that the officials attached to these NGOs based in Ranchi, Bahraich and Manipur are being questioned.

Officials stated these NGOs claim foreign funds in the name of helping tribals and minority communities but were later found utilising the funds for other purposes, hence the FCRA applications were denied.

FCRA

All non-government organisations (NGOs) are mandatorily required to be registered under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act or FCRA to receive foreign funding.

According to the government’s FCRA guidelines, all registered organisations are required to submit an online annual report comprising of income and expenditure statement, receipt and payment account, balance sheet, etc., for every financial year within nine months of the closure of the financial year.

Since 2020, over 16,895 organisations have registered in the country under FCRA. Over 466 NGOs have been refused FCRA licence of which 100 applications were in 2020, 341 in 2021 and 25 organisations till March 2022.

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