The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has frozen over a dozen bank accounts of environmental NGO Greenpeace and its linked entity after it conducted searches at their premises in Bengaluru on charges of alleged forex violations, officials said Thursday.
The NGO said in a statement that it strongly denies all allegations against it and that the ED action was "part of a larger design to muzzle democratic dissent in the country".
Official sources in the central probe agency said the searches, under the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA), were conducted on October 5 in Bengaluru as it was detected that it incorporated a commercial entity called DDIIPL in 2016 after the Union Home Ministry cancelled Greenpeace India Society's (Chennai) FCRA registration the previous year for alleged violation of norms.
"Every rupee that goes into Greenpeace India's environmental work is a donation made by ecologically conscious people in the country.
"Greenpeace India's work for clean air, promotion of renewable energy, safe food for all and climate change mitigation is carried out with a unique combination of passion and professionalism. We strongly object to attempts of defaming Greenpeace India through false claims and accusations," the NGO said.
Official sources said the ED searches were carried out on charges of "contravention of the FEMA" and the office premises of DDIIPL and Greenpeace India Society were covered.
The agency said Ms Direct Dialogue Initiatives India Pvt Ltd (DDIIPL) was created to "facilitate the operational activities of Greenpeace" and claimed that the new entity received FDI of Rs 99 lakh from a Netherland-based organisation followed by another tranche of Rs 15 crore.
"As on date, DDIIPL received foreign direct investment (FDI) to the tune of Rs 29 crore," the agency said in a statement.
It said a British national was also made the director of DDIIPL in October 2017.
"We do not have anything to hide and are ready to provide the government with financial details as required. At the same time, we will reserve the right to constitutionally challenge attempts to malign our very existence as an independent environmental organisation," Greenpeace said.
Officials said senior executives of the two entities were questioned by ED officials during the searches and subsequently 14 bank accounts, holding over Rs 11.61 crore of DDIIPL and Greenpeace India Society have been frozen under the FEMA.
The ED alleges that DDIIPL spent around Rs 21 crore for its expenses since inception "with no substantial revenue generation so far".
It also alleged DDIIPL was "engaged in similar activities" that were being undertaken by Greenpeace, for which the home ministry had cancelled the latter's Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) license in September 2015.
The agency has now sought the list of Indian donors to DDIIPL as it detected that it was allegedly raising funds to five entities, most of whom are linked to Greenpeace.
The ED also suspects that a number of employees have "migrated" from Greenpeace to DDIIPL and are involved in similar tasks undertaken in the past by the latter organisation.
(With inputs from agencies.)