ED attaches journalist Rana Ayyub's funds in money laundering case probe

The ED said a probe "makes it abundantly clear that the funds were raised in the name of charity…but were not utilised completely for the purpose of which the funds were raised".
A file photo of Rana Ayyub
A file photo of Rana Ayyub
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The Enforcement Directorate has attached over Rs 1.77 crore worth bank deposits of journalist Rana Ayyub, in connection with a money laundering probe against her. The probe is linked to alleged irregularities in charitable funds raised from public donors, agency sources told PTI on Thursday, February 10. The federal investigation agency had issued a provisional order under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) to attach a Rs 50 lakh worth fixed deposit, and the remaining amount kept as bank deposits and held in two accounts of a private bank in Navi Mumbai.

Ayyub is the account holder and deposits totalling Rs 1,77,27,704 have been attached by the ED. The money laundering case against her was filed after taking cognisance of a September 2021 FIR of the Ghaziabad Police in Uttar Pradesh related to alleged irregularities in donor funds of over Rs 2.69 crore raised by her through online crowdfunding platform called Ketto.

The police lodged the case on a complaint made by Vikas Sankrityayan, founder of an NGO called ‘Hindu IT Cell’ and a resident of Indirapuram in Ghaziabad. Ayyub had then stated that the "entire donation received through Ketto is accounted for and not a single paisa has been misused".

According to the FIR, the funds were raised as part of three campaigns; funds for slum dwellers and farmers during April-May 2020, relief work in Assam, Bihar and Maharashtra during June-September 2020, and help for COVID-19 impacted people in India during May-June 2021.

"Funds totalling Rs 2,69,44,680 were raised on Ketto by Rana Ayyub. These funds were withdrawn in the bank accounts of her sister and father," the agency said. Out of this amount, Rs 72,01,786 was withdrawn in her own bank account, Rs 37,15,072 withdrawn in her sister Iffat Shaikh's account, and Rs 1,60,27,822 was withdrawn in her father Mohd Ayyub Waquif's bank account, the ED said.

All these funds, the ED claimed, were subsequently transferred into Ayyub's own account. Ayyub submitted documents of expense for Rs 31,16,770 to the ED. However, after verification of the claimed expenses, the agency said that it found that the actual expenses were to the tune of Rs 17,66,970.

"Fake bills were found to have been prepared by Rana Ayyub in the name of some entities to claim expenses on relief work. Expenses made for personal travel by air were claimed as expenses for relief work," it alleged. The ED said its probe "makes it abundantly clear that the funds were raised in the name of charity in a completely pre-planned and systematic manner, and the funds were not utilised completely for the purpose of which the funds were raised".

"Instead of utilising the funds for the relief work, Rana Ayyub parked some of the funds by opening a separate current bank account," it said. Ayyub, it added, created the fixed deposit of Rs 50 lakh from the funds raised on the online platform and subsequently "did not utilise" these for relief work. The agency found Ayyub "deposited a total of Rs 74.50 lakh in PM Cares fund and CM Relief Fund." The attachment order of the ED can be challenged before the Adjudicating Authority of PMLA.

While Rana Ayyub has yet to issue a detailed response, taking to Twitter on Thursday, she said, “When the government of the day unleashes all its agencies against journalists targeting their reputation as a response to their journalism, how will journalists survive. By continuing to speak the truth.”

She also linked a blog she had written a day earlier, where she said, “Laying low is a privilege that my duty to my country does not accord me right now. This is not the first time these vile attempts to shame and silence me have been made. It won’t be the last.”

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