INDIA. MUMBAI: The Enforcement Directorate (ED) adjudicated that M/s Amnesty India International Pvt. Ltd. (AIIPL) and its Chief Operating Officer (CEO) Aakar Patel acted in contravention of the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) Act 1999 and imposed a penalty of Rs 51.72 crore and Rs10 crore respectively on them on Friday.
“The Adjudicating Authority of ED has adjudicated an SCN issued to M/s Amnesty India International Pvt. Ltd.(AIIPL) and its CEO Shri Aakar Patel for contravention of the provisions of FEMA and imposed penalty of Rs. 51.72 Crore and Rs 10 Crore respectively,” the ED tweet said. Reacting to the fine imposed by ED, in a tweet, Patel said they would continue to fight in the court of law to seek justice.
“After receiving a detailed response from AIIPL and applying the principle of natural justice, the ED Adjudicating Authority determined that AIIPL is an umbrella entity under M/s. Amnesty International Ltd., based in the United Kingdom, was established to promote social activities in India. However, AIIPL has been involved in a number of activities unrelated to their declared commercial business,” the ED stated in a statement.
The Amnesty International India Foundation Trust (AIIFT) was granted permission under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) during 2011-2012 to receive foreign contributions from Amnesty International, UK. However, based on adverse reports, the permission was cancelled.
Then Indians for Amnesty International Trust( IAIT) was formed in 2012-2013. After that, the AIIPL was formed in 2013-2014 to escape the FCRA route and carry out NGO activities in the name of service export.
In December 2018, ED had written a letter to the Union Home Secretary and sent an interim report indicating a violation of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act by the petitioner trust. Subsequently, the home ministry directed the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to conduct further investigation as per law.
On October 25, 2018, the ED conducted a search and seizure at its office based on a search warrant. The CBI registered an FIR against Amnesty and others under Sections 11, 35, and 39 of the FCRA in 2019.
In August 2020, ED sent a notice to Avinash Kumar, Executive Director of Amnesty International (India), seeking his appearance. A similar notice was issued to various people associated with the organization. After freezing its bank accounts in September 2020, Amnesty International announced stopping its operations in India.
The ED issued letters dated October 19, 2020, to various banks to stop debit operations concerning the bank accounts of Amnesty. The banks included: South Indian Bank, IDBI Bank, HDFC Bank, Kotak Mahindra Bank, and Yes Bank (in which Amnesty was maintaining accounts).
However, Amnesty claiming that it was not provided with copies of these letters, moved to the Karnataka High Court, which passed an interim order in November 2020, allowing it to utilize the amount for the payment of salaries, statutory, and other running expenses.
In September 2020, Patel was arrested by Surat (Gujarat) police over tweets on Modi, Ghanchi Caste. He was arrested based on an FIR filed by a BJP leader citing sections including 153A IPC (promoting enmity). Subsequently, he was released on bail.
Patel was stopped in April this year by immigration authorities at Bangalore International airport (Karnataka) before leaving for the US, based on a lookout notice issued by CBI in a FEMA case. The lookout notice was withdrawn when the Delhi court asked CBI to withdraw the notice and also apologize to him.