Controversial preacher Zakir Naik’s Islamic Research Foundation reportedly donated Rs 50 lakh to the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation in 2011. Officials said this was one of the irregularities in its activities that was ignored by a few Home Affairs Ministry authorities, for which they may be suspended. “Three or four more officials...who served in the FCRA [Foreign Contribution Regulation Act] division of the Home Ministry in 2013 and 2014, are likely to be suspended soon”, the official said, according to The Indian Express.
Congress President Sonia Gandhi, party vice president Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi are all among its founding members of the RGF. The three Gandhis, as well as former prime minister Manmohan Singh, are listed as trustees of the foundation.
While the Congress admitted to The Times of India that there had been a Rs 50-lakh donation from the IRF, it said the sum was meant for the Rajiv Gandhi Charitable Trust and had been returned “some months ago”. Party spokesman Abhishek Manu Singhvi tried to emphasise that the donation was made at a time when neither Naik, nor his foundation were under scrutiny. RGF reportedly received the amount during the United Progressive Alliance government’s second term.
Moreover, a spokesperson for Islamic body said they had not received any refund yet, adding that the donation was made to RGF, and not the charitable trust. “We donated 50 lakh to RGF in 2011. But the donation to RGF is just one of the several donations we make to NGOs of similar nature for education of the girl child, higher education in medicine, medical surgeries, etc,” the spokesperson said.
According to a Home Ministry official, the Centre had found irregularities in the foundations activities during an audit. These included a number of FCRA violations, such as foreign funding of Rs 10 crore in fixed deposits and non-declaration of donations worth one million dirhams, in addition to diversion of foreign funds to “other end-users” such as the charitable trust, according to The Indian Express report.
On September 1, four ministry officials were suspended for renewing IRF’s FCRA licence on August 19, despite the foundation being named in a watchlist. The Centre had ordered an investigation into the funding sources for Naik’s outfit. Fifteen joint secretaries of the ministry, in a show of solidarity, met Home Minister Rajnath Singh and requested him to review the suspension order against IAS officer GK Dwivedi in the Zakir Naik NGO case.
The televangelist has been under the government’s lens ever since allegations arose that he had inspired one of the terrorists behind the Dhaka restaurant attack on July 1. He was also accused of meeting two brothers from Kerala who were among those who went missing in West Asia and are feared to have joined the Islamic State group.