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Dhaka Tribune

India says Amnesty 'laundered' Rs 51.72 crore, fines it the same amount

The human rights organisation’s chair Aakar Patel was fined Rs 10 crore

Update : 09 Jul 2022, 10:45 PM

The Enforcement Directorate, India's financial investigation agency, on Saturday said that it has filed a prosecution complaint against human rights organisations Amnesty International India, Indians for Amnesty International Trust and others under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002.

The agency accused the organisations of laundering Rs 51.72 crore. On Friday, the central agency had asked Amnesty India International to pay Rs 51.72 crore for allegedly violating the Foreign Exchange Management Act. The human rights organisation’s chair Aakar Patel was fined Rs 10 crore.

The central agency had alleged that the Amnesty International-United Kingdom was remitting funds from abroad through its Indian entities – by taking the foreign direct investment route – to evade the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act.

Remitting involves sending money in payment or as gifts.

These funds were allegedly received to expand the organisation’s activities in India despite the home ministry denying permission to the body and Amnesty India Foundation Trust to register under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act.

The Enforcement Directorate claimed that Amnesty International India has been involved in activities that are irrelevant to their declared commercial businesses. The organisation’s working model is used to route foreign funds in the guise of business activities, it added.

In April, the Central Bureau of Investigation had also launched an inquiry against Patel for violating the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act by allegedly allowing Rs 36 crore to be remitted to Amnesty India without government approval. He was stopped from flying to the United States earlier this year because of the government's legal action against the human rights watchdog.

Like in Russia under President Vladimir Putin and Viktor Orban's Hungary, critics say Narendra Modi's government has sought to pressure rights groups by heavily scrutinising their finances and clamping down on foreign funding.

In 2015, the year after Modi took office, the Indian government froze the bank accounts of environmental organisation Greenpeace's India unit. 

Amnesty faced sedition charges, later dropped, the following year over an event to discuss human rights violations in Kashmir.

In 2018, the Enforcement Directorate raided Amnesty's office in Bangalore, and the watchdog said investigators later selectively leaked documents to the media.

CBI’s case against Amnesty International India

The Central Bureau of Investigation has said that the Amnesty International India Foundation Trust was given permission during 2011-’12 for receiving foreign contributions from the Amnesty International-United Kingdom. However, the permission was cancelled following adverse inputs from the security agencies.

The agency alleged that the Indians for Amnesty International Trust and the Amnesty International India Private Limited were then formed in 2012-’13 and 2013-’14 to “escape the FCRA [Foreign Contribution Regulation Act] route”.

In September 2020, the human rights organisation had said it was forced to shut its operations as the Indian government had frozen its bank accounts. The group had said its “lawful fundraising model” was being portrayed as money laundering because Amnesty India had challenged the “government’s grave inactions and excesses”.

The government had described the allegations as unfortunate, exaggerated and “far from the truth”. Amnesty’s “glossy statements” about humanitarian work and speaking truth to power were nothing but a “ploy to divert attention” from their activities, which were in “clear contravention” of Indian laws, the government had said.

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