US based Pakistani NGO involved in Covid fundraising scam

Priyajit Debsarkar :

In a shocking report by the DisInfo lab it has been revealed that how a phenomenal scam exploiting the sentiments of the diaspora took place over the last few months. The report also is quoted to have mentioned this scam as one of the ‘Worst in human history’. When the Wuhan virus was ravaging in an overwhelming second wave in India, the entire global community stood in solidarity with India. Apart from governments, the common citizens across the planet were trying their level best in some shape or other to play their part.

The South Asian diaspora in the Western world played a vital role is raising all kinds of vital supplies and other life saving equipment to cope with the crisis. In its investigation DisInfo lab has unearthed that millions of dollars worth of funds have been collected and has evaporated without even reaching India.

One of the key campaigns was “Help India Breathe” run by charitable organisations like IMANA (Islamic Medical Association of North America), which has Pakistani roots is under the scanner. The report has also identified other key charitable organisations which have previously been aligned to the Pakistani establishment and other radical organisations. It has been estimated that funds worth of millions of dollars have been collected but there has been no accountability and complete lack of scrutiny on behalf of these organisations as per the report. The IMANA is an Illinois based and registered medical relief organisation. The opaqueness of this charity on to the distribution and collection of funds to help the people of India is of suspicious nature. Clearly it has deliberately exploited the goodwill of India to its advantage.

Social media platforms with popular hash tags like #HelpIndiaBreathe were used to publicise and collect funds from innocent individuals. The initial target was approximately 1.8 Cr (Indian currency) however, with huge success from various social media platform the target amount was almost tripled within a short span of time. At its peak, it is estimated that almost 100K US Dollars were raised on an hourly basis. The report has made an approximate figure estimate of up to around 158 Cr (Indian currency), which could have been collected.

One of the primary reasons of suspicion is the organisation had made claims to purchase medical equipment like nasal cannula, oxygen concentrators, non breather masks and other items close to almost a million USD. These items then were apparently shipped to India via the national flag bearer carrier Air India in a free arrangement tie up, from the USA. The airline had not received any such shipment. Another claim was that IMANA had also tied up with premiere Indian research and development organisation DRDO and even the Ministry of Agriculture which turned out to be bogus. DisInfo Lab also mentioned in its report almost sixty six such organisations and campaigns which siphoned critical funds at a crucial time. 

According to DisInfo Lab a network of these organisations held a conference in Pakistan in 2017 in association with Falah E Insaniyat Foundation, the charitable wing of Lashkar E Taiba, a terror outfit proscribed by the United Nations. It is criminally shameful that funds raised for a benevolent cause might have ended up in the hands of terrorists. The report concluded drawing concerns in lines similar to the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) which has already speculated that a multitude of funds raised for Covid19 relief will most certainly be channelised towards terror financing globally.

Author Priyajit Debsarkar is a geo-political analyst

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