Controversial TV preacher Zakir Naik’s NGO Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) donated Rs 50 lakh to Rajiv Gandhi Charitable Trust (RGCT) in 2011 but the home ministry found nothing wrong with the transaction. Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi are trustees of RGCT.
The Congress owned up the donation, but claimed that the same was returned to IRF ‘some months ago’.
“Both the organisations are registered under Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) that allows them to receive foreign funding. Under the norms, there is no bar on one FCRA registered body to give money to another FCRA registered outfit if the purpose of funding is same,” said an official source.
The transaction was known to the union home ministry since late 2014 when it inspected books of the IRF. The transaction was reviewed by the ministry officials but it was found that the donation can’t be used against the IRF as any evidence of violation of the FCRA because ‘it would not stand any scrutiny in a court’, sources said.
“There is nothing to hide about the donation to the RGCT. We donate to many NGOs doing work which is part of the charter of the IRF and like those NGOs, the RGCT was also given money. But we ensure that money goes to only those NGOs that are registered under the FCRA. These donations are mentioned in the IRF books and part of its annual reports,” said IRF spokesman Aarif Malik.
The IRF spokesman said the money which had gone to the RGCT, was returned to the foundation sometime in July after the terror attack on the Holey Artisan Bakery in Dhaka.
The donation to RGCT is just one of the several donations the IRF makes to NGOs of similar nature for education of the girl child and higher education in medicine.
Naik and his NGO have become political hot potatoes and target of multi-agency probe ever since it came to light that two of the terrorists behind the July 1 attack in Dhaka were allegedly inspired by Naik’s speeches.
Interestingly, the 2014 inspection report of the IRF was never acted upon by the home ministry.
When Zakir Naik came under renewed focus after the Holey Artisan Bakery attack, the then joint secretary (foreigners) GK Dwivedi found about the report and initiated disciplinary action against three junior officials for not acting on the report. But later Dwivedi himself was suspended as his division renewed foreign funding license of the IRF despite inquiry pending against it.
The ministry has now put the IRF under prior permission category under which all foreign donations to it will be first vetted by the government before being transferred into its accounts.