NEW DELHI: The CBI has intercepted 437 telephonic conversations in the FCRA violations case which showed that accused officials in connivance with middlemen were allegedly demanding bribes ranging between 5 and 10 percent of the held up foreign funds of NGOs, officials said.
The technical surveillance launched by the agency on a reference from the Home Ministry showed alleged nexus between middlemen and accused officials of the ministry in the Foreign Contribution Regulation (amendment) Act (FCRA) unit, who were arrested on May 10 for allegedly taking bribes from representatives of NGOs to facilitate their applications, officials said.
The intercepted calls, which are in various stages of transcription by the Anti-Corruption Branch unit of the agency, show conversations in which middlemen were heard negotiating with NGOs about the bribe amount of the foreign funds pending clearance under the FCRA, they alleged.
The CBI has recently filed four charge sheets in connection with the case, keeping its probe open into a larger conspiracy with supplementary charge sheets in the offing. Besides the tapped conversations, the CBI has also seized 12 pen drives and around 50 mobile phones giving the agency trove of data about financial transactions and documents on the working of the alleged bribery ring in the ministry.
Based on information retrieved from intercepted calls and WhatsApp interaction of the accused, the CBI has collected records from the FCRA unit of the ministry.
The racket was unearthed when the Home Ministry received input about three bribery rings operating in the FCRA unit of the agency.
The input was strong enough that Home Minister Amit Shah had immediately instructed a CBI probe. Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla wrote to the CBI director seeking an investigation in the bribery ring following which a surveillance was launched on various suspects.
The CBI finally carried out a massive countrywide search operation on May 10 in which 16 people were arrested including six officials of the FCRA unit of the ministry. During the surveillance, various actors including Home Ministry officials in FCRA unit, NGO representatives, middlemen and hawala operators were pin pointed.