The Central Bureau of Investigation has named 10 non-government organisations, including the US-based Omidyar, as accused in the case of allegedly conspiring to illegally facilitate the registration and renewal of Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act licences.
FCRA is a mandatory requirement to receive foreign funds.
The FCRA unit is part of the foreigners division of the ministry of home affairs and offers services such as renewal of registration, filing annual returns and even fresh registration. To maintain transparency, most of the services are online.
Omidyar was placed on a watchlist by the MHA last year and all of its foreign donations were restricted.
Omidyar Network is a venture of The Omidyar group that has invested in many fields like media, digital society, education, emerging tech and many others.
The NGOs and their associates named as accused in the FIR have been identified as Vageesh, chartered accountant, on behalf of Ganga Orthopaedic Research and Education Foundation (GOREF); Robin Devadass of NGO The Social Project; Swapan Manna, representative of Srijan Foundation; Chinappan Pichai Pillai of Ayries Multipurpose Social Service Society; Ramaswamy Ranganathan of Centre for Tribal & Rural Development Trust; Alfred Mohanty, administrator of CLC (Christian Life Centre Ministries); Kathera Suresh Kumar, representative of NGO Harvest India; Lungawiruol Khawbung, general secretary of the organisation Reformed Presbyterian Church North East India; Bishnu Mour, president of Nayi Roshni Foundation, a Guwahati-based NGO; apart from the promoters of Omidyar.
"On 24 April this year, one Devesh Chandra Mishra, being investigated for clearing of permission for receiving foreign remittance worth Rs 3 crore as donation for Omidyar, contacted Tushar Kanti Roy. And in return, Roy assured to arrange permission but demanded 10 per cent of the total remittance as bribe. Devesh Mishra asked to negotiate the bribe amount as 10 per cent was too high for the said work and told Tushar Kanti Roy that the promoters of Omidyar are ready to pay Rs 5 lakhs. Finally, Tushar Kanti Roy said for a mere Rs 5 lakhs he can't talk to his colleagues, they have to give at least seven per cent of the foreign donation as bribe as he has to share it with others as well," the FIR stated.
A senior CBI officer said that over a period, the FCRA officials along with middlemen had developed a nexus to extort money to provide a favourable report to NGOs to receive foreign funds. The NGOs then paid bribes to get the requisite clearance for foreign funds.
"The case is under investigation and more names of NGOs will be added if they are found during investigation," the official said.
There were 16,890 FCRA-registered NGOs in the country as of Tuesday.
The FCRA registration of nearly 6,000 NGOs had ceased from January 1 as either the MHA refused to renew their application or the NGOs did not apply for registration.
On Wednesday, the CBI arrested 14 accused including six public servants and recovered cash of nearly Rs 3.21 crore for alleged "illegal clearance" of FCRA licences in lieu of bribes.