ED slaps Rs 61 crore penalty on Amnesty International, chair Aakar Patel

Amnesty International and its chair Aakar Patel have been slapped with penalties of Rs 51 crore and Rs 10 crore, respectively, by the Enforcement Directorate for alleged violations of the Foreign Exchange Management Act.

“The Adjudicating Authority of Directorate of Enforcement (ED) has adjudicated a Show Cause Notice issued to M/s Amnesty India International Pvt Ltd (AIIPL) and its CEO Shri Aakar Patel for contravention of the provisions of The Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999 (FEMA) and imposed penalty to the tune of Rs. 51.72 crore and Rs 10 crore, respectively,” read an ED statement issued on Friday.

A show-cause notice under FEMA is basically declaration of completion of investigation and thus a penalty is sought to be slapped against the accused, according to newspaper Indian Express. The FEMA’s orders can be challenged in the high court.

The central agency went on to say: “ED had initiated investigation under FEMA on the basis of information that Amnesty International, UK had been remitting huge amount of foreign contribution through its Indian entities (non-FCRA companies) following FDI route, in order to evade Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) to expand its NGO activities in India, despite denial of prior registration or permissions to Amnesty International India Foundation Trust (AIIFT) and other trusts under FCRA by Ministry of Home Affairs, Govt of India.”

“After getting detailed reply from AIIPL and following principal of natural justice, the Adjudicating Authority of ED has held that AIIPL is an umbrella entity under M/s Amnesty International Ltd, UK, which was declared to be set up for the cause of social activities in India. However, AIIPL has involved in many activities which are not relevant to their declared commercial business, and circumventing model has been applied by them to route the foreign funds in the guise of business activities to escape FCRA scrutiny. All contentions and submission from AIIPL regarding the claim of the remittance towards the export of services to Amnesty International have been dismissed, in the absence of concrete evidence,” the ED statement added.

“Accordingly, penalty to the tune of Rs 51.72 crore on AIIPL and Rs 10 crore on Shri Aakar Patel have been imposed under the provisions of FEMA,” it said.

Three months before. Patel, based on a lookout circular (LoC) issued by the CBI, was prevented from flying to the US to deliver a series of lectures. The LoC was opened after the CBI filed a chargesheet against Aakar Patel and Amnesty in December last year in a case of alleged violation of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA).

Days after, a Delhi court ordered the Central Bureau of Investigation to withdraw the LOC.

In October 2020, Amnesty International India was forced to cease its human rights work after its bank accounts were frozen by the Enforcement Directorate.

Since then, Amnesty International India has been fighting multiple court cases instituted by various agencies of the Indian Government against the organization. Before it halted operations, Amnesty International India faced a concerted and vicious smear campaign of spurious allegations, raids by various investigative agencies, malicious media leaks, and intimidation for merely speaking the truth to power, the watchdog said. As the Chair of Amnesty International India Board, Aakar Patel is regularly at the forefront of ongoing litigation.

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