CBI books Oxfam India over FCRA 'non-compliance', searches its office
The complaint, which is now part of the FIR, has alleged that though Oxfam India's FCRA registration ceased, it planned to circumvent the law by taking other routes to channelise funds.
NEW DELHI: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Wednesday lodged an FIR against the India-based entity of international non-profit organisation Oxfam, following a directive from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) citing 'non-compliance' and 'violation' under the Foreign Currency Regulation Act (FCRA).
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) also carried out searches at the office of Oxfam India in Delhi on Wednesday, officials said.
Oxfam India is the second NGO against whom the home ministry has recommended a CBI probe. On March 20, the ministry recommended a probe against Aman Biradari, an NGO established by human rights activist Harsh Mander.
The MHA directive was issued following inputs gathered by multiple agencies that detected several irregularities, violations, and non-compliance under FCRA 2010 by Oxfam which led to the authorities referring the matter to the CBI for investigation.
The MHA in its letter to the CBI Director had stated: "though Oxfam India’s FCRA registration has ceased, it planned to circumvent FCRA by routing funds through other routes."
It alleged that Oxfam India had routed funds from its foreign affiliates such as Oxfam Australia and Oxfam Great Britain to certain NGOs and exercised control over the project. The agency will be investigating the various alleged violations and their scope between 2013 and 2020.
Oxfam India was registered under the FRCA, 2010, for undertaking social activities, with its registration certificate being valid up to December 31, 2021.
According to sources in the MHA, Oxfam India continued to transfer foreign contributions to various entities even after coming into force of the FCRA, 2020, which prohibited such transfers. The amendment came into force on September 29, 2020, but Oxfam India continued to transfer funds to other NGOs, violating provisions of the FCRA, 2010.
Meanwhile, emails found during an income tax survey by the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) revealed that Oxfam India was also planning to circumvent FCRA provisions by routing funds to other FCRA-registered associations or through the for-profit consultancy route.
The survey is also said to have outed it as a "probable instrument of foreign policy of international organisations and entities" that funded Oxfam India liberally over the years.
Sources said Oxfam India routed funds to the Centre for Policy Research (CPR) through its associates/employees in the form of a commission. Oxfam India’s TDS data shows a payment of Rs 12.71 lakh to the CPR in 2019-20 under section 194J.
Oxfam India also received foreign contributions amounting to Rs 1.50 crore (approx) directly into its FC utilization account instead of receiving the contribution via its designated FCRA account.
In a statement earlier this month, Oxfam India said it is fully compliant with Indian laws.
"Oxfam India is fully compliant with Indian laws and has filed all its statutory compliances, including Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) returns, in a timely manner since its inception. Oxfam India has been cooperating with all government agencies since its FCRA registration wasn't renewed in December 2021," the NGO said.
The group has filed a plea in the Delhi High Court against the decision to not renew its FCRA registration, it said.
"In times of growing inequality and greater need for action on poverty eradication, Oxfam India has been and will continue to work in the Public and National interest. Oxfam India believes this is our constitutional duty as an organisation, irrespective of obstacles and hurdles in the path," it had said.