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AAP faces the heat: ED uncovers Rs 7 cr foreign donation ‘scam’ violating FCRA rules

New Delhi, May 20: The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has unearthed a Rs 7.08 crore alleged foreign donation scandal involving the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which violated FCRA and election guidelines by manipulating the donor identities. Sources said this amount was raised in violation of the provisions of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), 2010, and the Representation of the People Act, 1951, by concealing, mis-declaring and manipulating the identities and nationalities of foreign donors as well as several other facts relating to foreign donations.

According to the sources, the ED during its investigation found several instances of irregularities in the collection of foreign funds by the AAP and its leaders, as it accused some of them, including AAP MLA Durgesh Pathak, of siphoning off the funds collected during a fund-raising event in Canada in 2016 for personal benefits.

The ED has substantiated the allegations through the contents of e-mails exchanged between various AAP volunteers and functionaries, including Aniket Saxena (Coordinator of AAP Overseas India), Kumar Vishwas (then Convenor of AAP Oversea India), Kapil Bhardwaj (AAP member), and Pathak. The investigation so far has revealed that not only amounts were collected through fund-raising campaigns in the US and Canada, and the identities of the actual donors were concealed to circumvent the restrictions imposed under FCRA on donations by foreign citizens to a political party, but an analysis of the data of foreign donations also revealed that multiple donors used the same passport numbers, e-mail IDs, mobile numbers, and credit card details for donations.

“The ED has shared all the information with the Union Home Ministry relating to its investigations, including the details of the donors such as names, country, passport number, amount donated, mode of donation, bank account details of the receiver, billing name, billing address, billing telephone numbers, e-mail, time and date of donation, and the payment gateways used, etc., which were gathered during the investigation under PMLA,” the sources said.

The agency has also gathered materials relating to the donations through e-mail IDs and mobile numbers of Canadian nationals. “The FCRA violation and other irregularities in receiving foreign funds by the AAP emerged during the investigation in a case registered in Punjab’s Fazilka district against an international drugs cartel involved in smuggling of heroin from Pakistan through the barbed fencing on the Indo-Pak border,” said the sources.

In this connection, a special court in Fazilka issued a summons to then AAP MLA from Bholath, Sukhpal Singh Khaira, to face the trial as an accused. During the ED investigation, searches were conducted at the residential premises of Khaira and his associates, which resulted in the seizure of incriminating documents containing details of foreign donations (four type-written pages containing a list of donors in the US, and eight hand-written pages of a diary).

The ED alleged that the scrutiny of the seized documents revealed the receipt of foreign donations amounting to $1,19,000. Khaira in his statement claimed that the foreign funding of $1,19,000 was raised during overseas fund-raising campaigns in the US organised by the AAP in April-May 2015, ahead of the 2017 Assembly elections in Punjab. The ED said that in this context, Pankaj Gupta, the national secretary of AAP, was summoned, who admitted that AAP received foreign donations either through cheque or through the online mode.

“The investigation also revealed that AAP set up a body — AAP Overseas lndia — along with volunteers in countries like the US, Canada, Australia etc., whose primary task was to mobilise foreign funds for AAP in India. It also revealed that a target of overseas donations of Rs 50 crore was fixed for these volunteers in 2016,” the sources said. Donations totalling Rs 51,15,044 were received using e-mail IDs and mobile numbers of 19 Canadian nationals, as per the ED probe.

However, the names of these Canadian nationals were not reflected correctly in the records, the sources said. Instead, different names were mentioned against these donations, which was done intentionally by the AAP to hide donations by foreign nationals, which are in violation of Section 3 of FCRA, and Section 298 of the Representation of the People Act, the sources said.

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