The Union Home Office (MHA) is likely to use a central investigative agency to investigate alleged violations of the Foreign Contributions Regulation Act (FCRA) by non-governmental organizations associated with the Gandhi family following the cancellation of the licenses of two trusts, people familiar with the matter said Sunday.
The ministry canceled the licenses of the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation (RGF) and the Rajiv Gandhi Charitable Trust (RGCT) – both headed by former Congresswoman Sonia Gandhi – for alleged violations. HT reported on the action against RGF on Sunday.
The cancellation of the licenses sparked a political row on Sunday after Congress called it an attempt to divert public attention from key issues plaguing the country. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has said that the Gandhi family and related organizations cannot be above the law.
Without disclosing whether a decision has already been made to have the investigation of the financial affairs of RGF and RGCT handled by a central agency, an officer said “it’s the natural next step.”
“Only agencies like the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Directorate of Law Enforcement (ED) can delve into the source and use of foreign funds for these NGOs,” the officer said, asking not to be named.
As HT reported on Sunday, RGF’s license was revoked based on investigations by an interdepartmental committee formed by the MHA, under the direction of a special director of ED rank, in July 2020.
“RGCT’s license was also revoked for similar reasons,” a second central agency officer said on condition of anonymity.
The CBI has the authority to investigate cases relating to violations of the FCRA. He has, since 2018, investigated foreign funds received by Amnesty International India and its related organisations, funds received by the religious organization Tablighi Jamaat (investigation launched in 2020) and alleged violations of the FCRA by an NGO linked to the lobbyist of Aviation Deepak Talwar (2017) among other cases.
In May of this year, the federal agency also investigated a case of an alleged organized connection between NGOs, government officials and intermediaries for “illegal authorization” of FCRA licenses instead of bribes. At least 14 people, including six civil servants, were arrested after the investigative agency recovered ₹3.21 crores in raids on 40 locations in multiple cities in the same month.
Established in 1991, RGF has worked on a number of critical issues relating to health, science and technology, women and children, disability support, and more. until 2009. In 2010, the foundation decided to focus on education going forward, according to its website. .
Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, former Finance Minister P Chidambaram and MP Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Suman Dubey and Ashok Ganguly are other administrators of the RGF.
The RGCT was established in 2002 to meet the development needs of the country’s disadvantaged people, especially the rural poor, its website says. Apart from Sonia, Rahul and Ashok Ganguly, Bansi Mehta and Deep Joshi are other directors of RGCT.
The inter-ministerial committee that vetted funding for the two organizations was made up of officers from the ministries of interior and finance, the CBI and the ED, said a third officer, wishing not to be named. The team was tasked with investigating allegations that these trusts manipulated documents when filing tax returns or misappropriated and laundered money received from foreign countries.
Congress castigated the Center for its action.
“They (the Center) are recycling old accusations against the RGF and the RGCT. This is to defame Congress and divert public attention from the issues that concern them on a daily basis,” party general secretary (communications) Jairam Ramesh said in a statement.
The economy is going through a deep crisis caused by soaring prices, unemployment and falling rupiah, he added.
Congress Leader and Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot also hit out at the Center and said the cancellation of FCRA licenses of RGF and RGCT is a “symbol of political malice” by the Narendra Modi government.
The BJP welcomed the cancellations and said the Gandhi family and organizations linked to them cannot be above the law.
“Everything the Constitution says has been done,” party spokesman Sambit Patra told a news conference.
“Our party chairman, JP Nadda, had in 2020 pointed out how the RGF had taken donations from the Chinese Embassy three times. Their list of partner organizations and donors for the year 2005-2006 included the government of the People’s Republic of China,” he said.
Nadda had made the allegation in June 2020 during a confrontation between India and Chinese troops in Ladakh.
Even the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund earmarked for disaster and accident relief went to the RGF when the Congress-led UPA was in power, Patra said. “The Gandhi family is present wherever there is corruption,” he added.