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CBI to probe foreign funds to Teesta-linked firm, bank A/C frozen

New Delhi:  In fresh trouble for social activist Teesta Setalvad, government today asked CBI to probe the receipt of over Rs 3 crore by private firm Sabrang Communication and Publishing Pvt Limited (SCPPL) linked to
PTI June 26, 2015 23:58 IST

New Delhi:  In fresh trouble for social activist Teesta Setalvad, government today asked CBI to probe the receipt of over Rs 3 crore by private firm Sabrang Communication and Publishing Pvt Limited (SCPPL) linked to her from foreign donors, including US-based Ford Foundation, in alleged violation of FCRA rules.

In a parallel move, government froze the bank account of the firm located in Juhu, Mumbai, as the Home Ministry claimed that the firm was not authorised to receive funds from abroad as it was not registered under Foreign Contributions Regulation Act (FCRA).

SCPPL had received foreign donation of USD 2,90,000 and Rs 1.30 crore in “contravention” of FCRA and without getting clearance of the Home Ministry, said the Ministry's letter to CBI said while ordering a probe.

According to rules, a private firm can accept donations from overseas only if it is registered under FCRA.

The Ministry also asked IDBI Bank to freeze an account of the firm and not to allow further credit and withdrawal of foreign contribution without its permission, it said.

A number of violations of rules and discrepancies were noticed by Home Ministry officials who had conducted an inspection between June 8-10 of the accounts and records of the firm for the period 2006-07 to 2014-15 at its Mumbai office.

Efforts to contact Setalvad for her comments failed. She did not reply to SMS sent to her mobile. However, earlier she had said in a statement that Sabrang Trust had co-operated with the ministry's inspection team.

SCPPL was not permitted to receive foreign contribution under any circumstances. It had also not applied for “prior permission” before accepting the foreign grant, the letter said.

“As per project module submitted by the foreign donor, it is mentioned that Sabrang as part of its public campaign would lobby with government in the public sphere to deepen and broaden the concept of minority or minorities.

It is stated that lobbying with political parties is not allowed as per provision of FCRA, 2010,” the ministry said quoting the findings of the inspection.

The firm also mixed its foreign contribution with their domestic donation in “violation” of the Act. It also did not maintain exclusive bank account for receipt of foreign fund, the letter said.

The inspection findings cited an agreement between the firm and Ford Foundation which restricted the use of funds for “charitable, scientific literacy or educational purpose” but the firm could not be treated as grant provided for the purpose of rendering any service, it said.
SCPPL is also prohibited to receive foreign fund as it is publishing monthly periodicals and two of its directors have been writing columns and articles in newspapers, it said.

CBI has been asked to conduct an investigation into the matter “considering the gravity and complexity of the case”.  

The investigation report may be submitted to the Ministry at earliest, the letter said. CBI has also been asked to submit status and progress reports in the matter on quarterly basis.
Today's action comes after a request from Gujarat government to the Home Ministry seeking action against Ford Foundation. It had alleged that the US-based organisation was “interfering in internal affairs” of the country and also “abetting communal disharmony” through an NGO run by Setalvad.  

The fund transfer from Ford Foundation has, at present, to be cleared by a nodal official in the Home Ministry. In April, the government had ordered that funds from Ford Foundation should not be released by any bank to any Indian NGO without mandatory permission from the Home Ministry.  

Gujarat government and Setalvad are embroiled in legal battles. While she has filed several cases against the state government functionaries, including the then chief minister Narendra Modi in connection with post-Godhra riots of 2002.  Gujarat police have filed a case of alleged embezzlement of funds against her.