The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has arrested 14 people and recovered Rs 3.21 crore cash during its searches at 40 locations against NGOs, middlemen and Union Home Ministry officials for allegedly facilitating foreign donations in violation of Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, officials said Wednesday.
The agency had registered the case on May 10 against 36 people including seven officials of the Home Ministry's FCRA division and NIC, middlemen, and NGO representatives on a complaint from the ministry. They face charges of conspiring to illegally facilitate registration and renewal of licenses under the FCRA act.
The CBI conducted the searches on Tuesday at 40 locations across the country.
The ministry had found that at least three networks, working closely with government officials, were charging ''speed money'' and ''problems resolution fees'' to expedite the FCRA clearance to NGOs so that they can get foreign donations, officials said.
The ministry ordered a CBI probe in the matter. In a communication to the CBI on March 29, Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla said at least three FCRA clearance networks were working in close collaboration with some government officials.
The three networks, having links with the government officials, were charging ''speed money'' and ''problems resolution fees'' to expedite the FCRA clearance to the NGOs and resolve issues related to the application process for new registrations and renewals, the officials said.
''It was alleged that some officials of FCRA Division in conspiracy with the promoters/ representatives of different NGOs, middlemen, were indulging in corrupt activities for getting backdoor FCRA registration/ renewal to NGOs illegally with an object to continue receiving donations despite not fulfilling the prescribed norms,'' CBI Spokesperson RC Joshi said.
Officials said that when the issue was brought to the notice of Home Minister Amit Shah he had directed that strongest action should be taken against those involved.
Joshi said some public servants were allegedly impersonating officers posted in the FCRA division and were obtaining bribes from NGOs for facilitating their registration/renewal of registration under FCRA and for other FCRA-related works.
He said that during investigation, two accused were caught while delivering and accepting the bribe amount of Rs 4 lakh on behalf of a Senior Accountant of MHA, New Delhi.
It was alleged that the delivery of bribe was done through a hawala operator and a close associate of the said public servant, at Avadi (Tamil Nadu), he said.
Those booked include officials Parmod Kumar Bhasin, Alok Ranjan, Raj Kumar, Md. Ghazanfar Ali, Uma Shankar and Tushar Kanti Roy.
Representatives of Ayries Multipurpose Social Service Society, Centre for Tribal and Rural Development Trust, Mohammad Jahangirabad Educational Trust, Christian Life Centre Ministries, Harvest India, Reformed Presbyterian Church North East India, Nayi Roshni Foundation and Omidyar have been booked in the FIR.
In addition, hawala operators, middlemen, executives and representatives of consultancy firms, relatives and staff of officials have also been named as accused in the FIR, they said.
The accused have been booked under Sections 120B (criminal conspiracy), 419 (punishment for cheating by personation), 420 (cheating), 468 (forgery) and 471 (using as genuine a forged document or electronic record) of the Indian Penal Code and Sections 7 (public servant taking gratification other than legal remuneration in respect of an official act), 7A (taking undue advantage to influence public servant by corrupt or illegal means) and 8 (taking gratification by corrupt or illegal means, to influence public servant) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.
(With inputs from PTI)
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