Home ministry cancels FCRA licences of 2 NGOs headed by Sonia Gandhi

Congress leader Sonia Gandhi. Photo: PTI
Congress leader Sonia Gandhi. Photo: PTI

New Delhi: The Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has cancelled the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) licences of the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation (RGF) and the Rajiv Gandhi Charitable Trust (RGCT), two NGOs headed by Congress leader Sonia Gandhi, for alleged violation of laws, officials said on Sunday.

The action came following investigations carried out by an inter-ministerial committee formed by the MHA in 2020.

"The FCRA licences of the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation and the Rajiv Gandhi Charitable Trust have been cancelled after investigations against these NGOs," an official said.

The investigators covered alleged manipulation of documents while filing income-tax returns, misuse of funds and money laundering while receiving funds from foreign countries, including China.

Former Congress president Sonia Gandhi is the chairperson of the RGF as well as the RGCT.

The trustees of the RGF are former prime minister Manmohan Singh, former finance minister P Chidambaram, Congress MP Rahul Gandhi, Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Suman Dubey and Ashok Ganguly.

The trustees of the RGCT are Rahul Gandhi, Ashok Ganguly, Bansi Mehta and Deep Joshi.

Set up in 1991, the RGF worked on a number of critical issues, including health, science and technology, women and children and disability support, till 2009. It also worked in the education sector, according to its website.

The RGCT was established in 2002 to address the development needs of the underprivileged people of the country, especially the rural poor.

It currently works in the poorest regions of Uttar Pradesh, one of the least developed states in the country, and Haryana through two development initiatives -- the Rajiv Gandhi Mahila Vikas Pariyojana (RGMVP) and the Indira Gandhi Eye Hospital and Research Centre (IGEHRC) -- according to the RGCT website.

Both the RGF and the RGCT function from the same building -- Jawahar Bhawan -- located on Rajendra Prasad Road, near the Parliament complex, in New Delhi.

The NGOs came under the scanner in July 2020 after the MHA set up an inter-ministerial committee headed by an Enforcement Directorate (ED) officer to probe possible violations of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), the Income Tax Act and the FCRA.

Another organisation that came under the probe was Indira Gandhi Memorial Trust.

However, no action has so far been taken against the third organisation.

The probe team comprised officers from the ministries of home and finance, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), besides the ED, and was mandated to investigate if these trusts run by the Gandhi family and other Congress leaders allegedly manipulated any documents while filing income tax returns or misused and laundered money received from foreign countries.

During the Indian Army's face-off with China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) in Ladakh in 2020, ruling Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) president J P Nadda had alleged that China gave funds to the RGF between 2005 and 2009 to carry out studies that were not in national interest.

Nadda had also alleged that money from the Prime Minister's Relief Fund was diverted to the RGF, which also received funds from fugitive businessman Mehul Choksi.

The BJP had also raised a question that whether the funds received by the RGF were a "bribe" for lobbying for a free-trade agreement (FTA) between India and China.

According to the RGF's annual report of 2005-06, which is available on its website, the embassy of the People's Republic of China is listed as one of its donors under "partner organisations and donors".

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