New Delhi: Only domestic payments were enabled for Alt News, Harshil Mathur, CEO of the payment gateway company Razorpay, said in a statement shared on Twitter Friday night. This was in line with Razorpay’s policy of not allowing international transactions without Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, (FCRA) approval, he added.
— Harshil Mathur (@harshilmathur) July 8, 2022
Razoprpay is a Bengaluru based Indian fintech company which the fact checking website, Alt News, used to receive donations.
Mathur’s statement followed claims made by Delhi Police earlier this month that Pravda Media Foundation — a not-for-profit under which Alt-News functions — had received funds amounting to over Rs 2 lakh from foreign countries, including Pakistan, Syria and Qatar.
Alt News co-founder, Mohammad Zubair was arrested over a 2018 tweet after he was summoned for questioning for a different case dating back to 2020. He was initially booked under sections 153-A (promoting enmity) and 295-A (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings) of the Indian Penal Code.
Delhi Police on 2 July told a Delhi court that they have added section 35 of the FCRA and charges of criminal conspiracy against him.
A senior employee of Razorpay told ThePrint that by domestic payments, they mean payments were made only from India.
Asked if foreign sources of funds are blocked, the Razorpay employee said, “FCRA is about source of funds, so we block sources. It’s not about the location of people. Source of funds are cards and bank accounts.”
The source added that they had shared the source and destination of funds received by Pravda Media with Delhi Police.
‘Transactions worth Rs 50 lakh in 3 months’
According to section 35 of the FCRA, “Whoever accepts, or assists any person, political party or organisation in accepting, any foreign contribution or any currency or security from a foreign source, in contravention of any provision of this Act or any rule or order made thereunder, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to five years, or with fine, or with both”.
The Act defines foreign source as “government of any foreign country or territory and any agency of such government; any international agency, not being the United Nations, a foreign company; a corporation, not being a foreign company, incorporated in a foreign country or territory; citizens of a foreign country or territory; trusts, societies registered in a foreign country; clubs, societies registered outside India”.
However, contributions made by an Indian citizen living in another country from personal savings through normal banking channels aren’t treated as foreign contributions.
Delhi Police deputy commissioner, K.P.S. Malhotra, had said earlier this month, “from the analysis of the reply received from Razorpay payment gateway, it is revealed there are various transactions in which either the mobile phone number is of outside India or the IP address is of foreign countries and a total of about Rs 2,31,933 have been received by Pravda Media”.
Sources in Delhi Police said Friday that the investigation into the funds received by Pravda Media started after a probe revealed transactions worth Rs 50 lakh had taken place in three months in Pravda. “We are now collecting further relevant details from financial institutions,” a source said.
Soutik Banerjee, one of the counsels appearing for Zubair, had earlier told ThePrint: “We are saying categorically that no funds sent to Zubair (were from foreign sources), and all donations received by Alt News, are from Indian nationals. [There’s] no foreign donation”.
(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)