Govt sets up official panel to probe Rajiv Gandhi Foundation funding row; Rajiv Gandhi Charitable Trust & Indira Gandhi Memorial Trust are also in the ambit of investigation

    08-Jul-2020   
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Sonia Gandhi headed Rajiv Gandhi Foundation received lakhs in donations from Embassy and Government of China. Funds from PMNRF were also siphoned-off to RGF when Manmohan Singh was PM. RGF also received funds from tainted businessmen like Mehul Choksi.  Rajiv Gandhi Charitable Trust and the Indira Gandhi Memorial Trust are also in the ambit of investigation.

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New Delhi: Taking cognizance of reports on 'revelation' that Sonia Gandhi-headed Rajiv Gandhi Foundation got funding from the Chinese embassy and some other questionable sources, the central government on Wednesday ordered probe into the same seeking detailed investigation into violation of various legal provisions of law including 'foreign funding' and Income Tax Act.
 
A move that is bound to create political ripples, the Ministry of Home Affairs on Wednesday set up an inter-ministerial committee to coordinate investigations into violation of various legal provisions of Income Tax Act, Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) and the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA).
 
A Special Director of the Enforcement Directorate will head the official panel and will have members from the Home Ministry and various probe agencies. Sources also said the probe will look into all aspects of funding and the functioning of the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation, Rajiv Gandhi Charitable Trust and the Indira Gandhi Memorial Trust.
 
BJP leaders Meenakshi Lekhi and Gaurav Bhatia have welcomed the probe order. Another BJP leader Tom Vadakkam told Times Now TV: "The issue is who are the propagandists who were funded by the Chinese government. I think the nation should know. This is walk-the-talk by the Government of India".
 
"This is a Foundation....well orchestrated racket and from where donation has been pouring in; from the Home Ministry, from the Prime Minister's Relief Fund. You name the ministry, and they have received the money. ....I believe now the steps are being taken (the probe order) in the right direction," said Vadakkam, who was till 2019 a key member of the Congress party and was considered close to the Sonia Gandhi-Rahul family.
 
Notably, BJP president J P Nadda had questioned a purported donation of $300,000 that the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation had received from People’s Republic of China and the Chinese embassy in 2005-06.
 
Congress president Sonia Gandhi is the chairperson of the RGF and its nine-member board includes senior Congress leaders like Manmohan Singh, Rahul Gandhi and also Priyanka Gandhi.
 
The BJP had alleged that the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation had received donations from the Chinese embassy in Delhi in 2005-06. "Did the then UPA government take a bribe from the Chinese? Is it not true that after taking this donation, the foundation recommended a free trade agreement with China, which was heavily tilted in favour of the Chinese?" Union Law Minister and BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad had said after the news of such funding from the Chinese authorities were flashed.
 
The Congress had obvously claimed that the RGF issue raised by the BJP government was a "manufactured charge" and smacked of political vendetta. The Congress also claimed that a sum of Rs 1.45 crore received by the RGF from the Embassy of China was used for the purpose of a welfare programme for differently-abled people and research on Sino-India relationships.
 
The Congress leaders' conduct after recent clashes between Indian and Chinese forces along the LAC at Galwan valley has only fuelled all speculation about Congress double standards vis-a-vis the relationship with China as the grand old party has failed to attack or criticise Beijing over the same. The Congress leaders including Rahul Gandhi instead focused chiefly to attack Prime Minister Narendra Modi and thus failed to give a a national consensus on such a vital and sensitive matter of national security.
 
China’s name figures in the list of donors for Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Contemporary Studies (RGICS), a think tank promoted by RGF. Among the many donors for RGICS are also the European Commission, Government of Ireland and United Nations Development Programme. Naviraj Estates Private Limited, which has fugitive businessman Mehul Chinubhai Choksi as one of the directors of the company, also had funded Sonia Gandhi-led Foundation, sources said.