Story Killers: the mysterious financing of SADF, the Brussels think tank of a former MEP

Un outgoing MEP, an NGO with an angelic name and opaque funding, a state that is trying to rebuild its reputation. It’s not just Qatargate that brings these ingredients together in the same cocktail. As part of the Story Killers investigation led by Forbidden Stories, an entity caught the attention of Knack and Le Soir, the Belgian partners of this consortium. Its nickname: SADF, for South Asia Democratic Forum. A non-profit association created on February 3, 2011 in Brussels, animated by the healthiest intentions. “The non-profit organization has the primary objective of bringing together individuals and private and public institutions from South Asia with individuals and private and public institutions from the European Union,” reads its statutes. It “will seek to promote justice, peace and security within international alliances. The highest standards of integrity and ethics are set as priorities”.

At its head, a certain Paulo Casaca (65), who was a European deputy from 1999 to 2009 on behalf of Portugal. “At the end of 2010, I no longer had a franc in my pocket. I returned to Belgium as a migrant. I even had to ask my mother for money to survive. Then in February 2011, SADF was set up. This is what allowed me to live, ”explains the person concerned.

On paper, his South Asia Democratic Forum looks dead serious. This think tank has numerous publications to its credit, a scientific council composed of 19 members sometimes from prestigious universities… Except that the structure is actually tiny. The Council of Elders supposed to steer the association has not met (even by video) since the health crisis. The offices are almost empty. And the association actually has only three members: Mr. Casaca, his daughter, and another ASBL headed by… Mr. Casaca himself. Alongside the father/daughter tandem, only one researcher (Dr. Wolf) works for this organization.

A first jolt
« We are much smaller today than in the past », explains Paulo Casaca to our colleague from Knack , who paid him a little visit. The life of the SADF was turned upside down in December 2020, following the publication of a report by EU Disinfo Lab , an organization that hunts down sophisticated disinformation campaigns. The analysis demonstrates, with supporting arguments, that the SADF is part of a “coordinated network of NGOs that promote Indian interests and repeatedly criticize Pakistan”. All orchestrated by the Srivastava group, an obscure Indian consortium that has made misinformation one of its businesses (see opposite).

A dozen scientists belonging to the « board » and researchers then decided to slam the door of the SADF. Those with whom Le Soirwas able to get in touch believe « to have fallen into a trap » or to have « worked in spite of themselves in favor of a pro-India lobby ». All were unaware of SADF’s links with the Srivastava group. However, these links are obvious. The South Asia Democratic Forum was initially housed at the same address as the entities created by the Srivastava family. The domain name “” was registered with an email address which was used to register a series of other entities linked to the group. Paulo Casaca appears from time to time on the fake news sites set up by the Srivastava group (to attack Pakistan, in particular). Just like two Italian MEPs… to whom SADF offered a trip to Bangladesh in November 2018.

If the work of the SADF does not have the slightest repercussion in Belgium, it has more echo in India, where the ANI press agency – suspected of being at the heart of a disinformation network – refers to it willingly. We find more than 50 occurrences of this think tank, totally unknown here, in the publications of the Indian agency, which are then passed on by the local media.

« I have connections, but I’m not part of any network », disputes Paulo Casaca. “And I am neither against Pakistan nor against any country. He does not deny that India is an « important partner » for him. And that he benefited from the help of the Srivastava family, during the creation of his ASBL. “I had the support of Mrs. Pramila Srivastava, yes. She was there. She gave me her blessing. She gave us a lot of support. Reputable general support. I think she was one of the important people to enable us to obtain the contributions of several companies to the launch of our organization, ”continues the former MEP.

Millions fell from the sky
Funding, let’s talk about it. Knack and Eveningwere able to obtain a copy of the ASBL’s accounts. And the microstructure actually brews quite a bit of money. From 2011 to 2022, nearly 2.4 million entered the coffers of the think tank, mainly in the form of donations and subsidies. The details of all the donors are not known, but some have been identified. A Luxembourg ASBL called European Foundation for International Development, for example, and the English company Euro Corporation Ltd. Two entities whose real beneficiaries cannot be found, but which have in common to have the same Indian entrepreneur among their administrators (who did not respond to our requests). Also appearing among the funding sources are Transworld Partners Ltd and Procaddsoft Limited, two companies that appear to be based in Hong Kong. NATO would also have paid a little over 14,000 euros to SADF. The organization did not respond to our requests for an explanation.

“We are independent. There is no direct funding from the Srivastava group”, assures Paulo Casaca. But then, who is hiding behind these obscure companies sponsoring the activities of the Forum? Mystery. Mr. Casaca refuses to provide detailed explanations on this point. And it’s not for lack of having asked him the question many times. He claims “not to know” the beneficiaries of the aforementioned entities. The only element that we will manage to extract from him: “I am sure that there are connections with India. It’s my feeling. But I can’t quantify them. »