FCRA Violations Case: FCRA bribery: 437 calls intercepted by CBI; show demands made for 5-10 per cent of held up funds
The technical surveillance launched by the agency on a reference from the Home Ministry showed alleged nexus between middlemen and accused officials of the ministry in the Foreign Contribution Regulation (amendment) Act (FCRA) unit, who were arrested on May 10 for allegedly taking bribes from representatives of NGOs to facilitate their applications, officials said.
The intercepted calls, which are in various stages of transcription by the Anti-Corruption Branch unit of the agency, show conversations in which middlemen were heard negotiating with NGOs about the bribe amount of the foreign funds pending clearance under the FCRA, they alleged.
The CBI has recently filed four charge sheets in connection with the case, keeping its probe open into a larger conspiracy with supplementary charge sheets in the offing.
Besides the tapped conversations, the CBI has also seized 12 pen drives and around 50 mobile phones giving the agency trove of data about financial transactions and documents on the working of the alleged bribery ring in the ministry.
Based on information retrieved from intercepted calls and WhatsApp interaction of the accused, the CBI has collected records from the FCRA unit of the ministry.
The racket was unearthed when the Home Ministry received input about three bribery rings operating in the FCRA unit of the agency. The input was strong enough that Home Minister Amit Shah had immediately instructed a CBI probe.
Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla wrote to the CBI director seeking an investigation in the bribery ring following which a surveillance was launched on various suspects.
The CBI finally carried out a massive countrywide search operation on May 10 in which 16 people were arrested including six officials of the FCRA unit of the ministry.
During the technical surveillance, various actors including Home Ministry officials in FCRA unit, NGO representatives, middlemen and hawala operators were pin pointed.
According to the charge sheet, the public servants allegedly used to seek details of FCRA pending applications and demanded bribes for processing them.
They were aided by several touts who supplied them the list of pending applications to six accused officials arrested in the case, who demanded bribes from the applicants, CBI has alleged.
To put pressure for illegal gratification, the officials allegedly conveyed to the applicants that their renewal applications suffered from certain deficiencies and were not likely to be renewed.
Subsequently, in connivance with other public servants, they would get the pending applications processed and cleared after allegedly receiving the bribes through their trusted aides and hawala operators.