I-T took our phones to clone and retrieve data: Oxfam India, IPSMF

Two days after the Income Tax Department carried out “surveys” at their premises, global non-profit organisation Oxfam India and the Independent And Public-Spirited Media Foundation (IPSMF) that funds a range of digital media entities said I-T personnel confiscated phones of their team members for cloning to retrieve data.

In a statement Friday, Oxfam India said: “The Income Tax (I-T) department officials conducted an Income Tax ‘survey’ at the Oxfam India Delhi office from the 7th September 2022 noon to early hours of 9th September. During these 35 plus hours of non-stop survey, the Oxfam India team members were not allowed to leave the premises; the internet was shut down and all the mobile phones were confiscated.”

“The Income Tax survey team took away hundreds of pages of data pertaining to finances and programs of Oxfam India. They also took all the data by cloning the Oxfam India server and the private mobile phones of the Senior leadership team and the Finance lead,” it said.

“While the team conducting the survey was polite and professional, the process of a survey with such sweeping powers and broad ambit resulted in disappointing Oxfam India, an organisation that has been law-abiding and community centric,” it said, stating that Oxfam India was compliant with all local laws including the Income Tax Act and Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA).

The IPSMF said it received “no foreign funds at any stage”.

In a statement, T N Ninan, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the IPSMF, said: “A team of income tax officials came for a “survey” to the  Bengaluru office of the Foundation on Wednesday, September 7. They stayed till 4.30 this morning, going through the papers and records of the Foundation and asking questions. The Foundation’s staff were cooperative and answered all questions put to them on a wide range of matters. The officials took statements from three senior staff members.”

“All laptops and mobile phones were taken for cloning data in them and returned last night.  All  staff other than the CEO, Sunil Rajshekhar, were allowed to go home at various  stages  in  the evening/night of September 7, and asked to return the following morning for further questioning. The CEO slept in the office for a few hours on the intervening night of September 7-8. The Board of Trustees compliments the staff on their good cheer and fortitude through the extended proceedings. The IT officials were courteous during their survey work,” he said.

“The Foundation believes that its affairs are entirely in order. Some media reporting on the IT survey has linked it to foreign funding and the funding of political parties. We wish to make it clear that the Foundation has received no foreign funds at any stage, and has funded only media entities. The Foundation believes in its  mission of supporting  independent and public-spirited media, and intends to continue its work,” Ninan said.

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Think tank Centre for Policy Research (CPR), also subjected to an I-T “survey” Wednesday, too put out a statement Friday. “We hold ourselves to the highest standards of compliance and are confident that we have done nothing wrong. We are committed to working with the authorities to address any questions they might have,” CPR President and Chief Executive Yamini Aiyar said.

The statement said that as one of the 24 research institutes of the Indian Council of Social Sciences Research network, “CPR has all requisite approvals and sanctions, and is authorised by the government as a recipient under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act”.

“We have extended full cooperation to the department during the survey, and will continue to do so in the future,” Aiyar said.

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