A day after OpIndia revealed that Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is seeking donations from Middle-Eastern countries by running Facebook ads in those specific countries, AAP has ‘expanded’ the scope of countries from which they are now seeking donations.
As per the new schedule, AAP is seeking donations from 62 countries including India and the four Middle-Eastern countries we reported earlier, Saudi Arabia, Oman, United Arab Emirates and Qatar.
Curiously, the first country on the list is Åland Islands, which has a total population of fewer than 30,000 people as per 2017 estimates and has about 38 Indian immigrants on the cluster of islands. Similarly, another country on the list is Guernsey. With an estimated total population of 63,000 people (2016 estimates), Guernsey is a tax haven. Similarly, Andorra, where AAP is running its ad seeking donation, also enjoys a partial tax-haven status. Other countries where AAP is running its ad seeking donations, Macedonia, Albania and Kosovo are also tax-havens.
Other obscure countries AAP is running its donation ads are Montenegro, Moldova, Liechtenstein among others. Moldova is quite popularly known as ‘Europe’s forgotten corruption heaven’. Quite a few rich people have reportedly applied to Moldova for citizenship for money.
Amusingly, the last country where AAP is Vatican City. With a population of 1,000 people, it is an independent city-state in Rome, Italy.
AAP has had a turbulent and shady relationship with donations.
In May 2017 it was alleged that AAP allegedly received crores of funding from shell companies through hawala transactions. Prior to that, anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare had written a letter to AAP chief to come clean on the donations received by the party.
It was even alleged that before the 2014 general elections, Kejriwal had received money through dubious channels. AAP rebel leader Kapil Mishra had alleged that one Hem Prakash Sharma, was the key to Kejriwal’s demonetisation drama. Mishra had alleged that on 5th Apil, 2014, a week before Kejriwal filed his nomination for 2014 General Elections from Varanasi, Rs 2 crore had been deposited in AAP’s account from four shell companies. Of these 4 companies, Hem Prakash Sharma is a director in 3. During an ED raid after demonetisation, carried out in GK in Delhi, Rs 13 crore worth currency was found. One of the directors of this company is also one Hem Prakash Sharma.
He further said that Hem Prakash Sharma is a fake director, who probably does not even exist. He went on to add that the only reason Kejriwal was on a back foot about contesting elections is the demonetisation, which has hurt him the most. This was bewildering for someone like Kejriwal, who hailed himself as an anti-corruption crusader and formed the political outfit on the plank of fighting corruption.
When OpIndia investigated into the mysterious Hem Prakash Sharma, we found that according to this report, the official records show that the four companies that had donated to AAP in April 2014, have no revenue to show. These companies have three common directors, Hem Prakash Sharma, Dharmender Kumar and Mukesh Kumar. The addresses listed in the registrar house a post office, a grocery store with shutters down and a small sewing factory. From the details, it would seem like these were shell companies.
Moreover, DNA was able to track down one of these directors, Mukesh Kumar, who denied donating anything to AAP, ever. He admitted to owning these companies, which exist only on paper, but denied donating to AAP. As per DNA, when they visited the address of Hem Prakash Sharma as mentioned in the official records, they found the two-storey house. There resided a lady in her 60s and a woman named Deepika Sharma, who was living with her family. She denied knowing Hem Prakash Sharma.
So who are these mysterious men? Are they fictitious? If so, who is funding these operations? Is there something the ‘anti-corruption crusader’, Arvind Kejriwal, hiding from us?
When the Aam Aadmi Party stormed into Indian political scenario, it arrived with a promise of changing the way political parties operate in India. It promised complete honesty and transparency in its operations, and most people believed in it. One the innovative thing the party did was to publish a list of donations it receives on its website, as proof of the transparent nature of its financial activities.
Towards the year 2016, the party removed the donation list for its website. During that time, the webpage for the list was still there, but it showed a message “under construction. New Version coming soon..”. But that new version never came.
It was reported that the page listed many donations above ₹ 20,000, but those were not reported to the Election Commission as per rules, and thus the party removed the list itself from the public domain.
This removal of the donation list was questioned by many people, including Yogendra Yadav and Anna Hazare. Former party member Yadav had alleged that the party was collecting cash donations which were not recorded.
They have relaunched their donation page on their website, but with a significant change. They have changed the web address for the page, it was donate.aamaadmiparty.org earlier, but now it is donations.aamaadmiparty.org. Along with standalone donations, the party now have provided the option of monthly donations also.
Meanwhile, the fact that AAP is running donation ads in the Middle Eastern countries also raises eyebrows. In November last year, as Delhi grappled with toxic pollution, Kejriwal was found taking a private trip to Dubai. It was also reported that Delhi’s health minister Satyendra Jain had also taken a week-long trip to Dubai just a week prior. Earlier too, Kejriwal has made trips to Dubai including that on a business class, drawing criticism.
It was also reported that the Indian-community based in Saudi Arabia is one of the major supporters of the Aam Aadmi Party. In February 2015 it was reported that they celebrated when AAP beat BJP in Delhi state assembly elections. In fact, a year later, they even celebrated one-year completion of AAP government in Delhi.
While there is nothing prima facie illegal or wrong in running Facebook ads in countries which are considered tax havens or where the rich and the criminals apply for citizenship in lieu of money, it does come as a surprise that AAP would seek a donation from these countries. Especially the one where the total population is less than the number of people who voted for Kejriwal in 2014 elections in Varanasi.