The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has filed a prosecution complaint (equivalent to a chargesheet) against journalist Rana Ayyub in connection with its probe into alleged irregularities and laundering of funds collected by her for relief work.
In a statement Thursday, the ED said the prosecution complaint under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) was filed before a special court in Ghaziabad on Wednesday.
The ED said it had initiated money laundering investigation on the basis of an FIR registered on September 7, 2021 by the Indirapuram police station, Ghaziabad, under various sections of the Indian Penal Code, Information Technology (Amendment) Act and Black Money Act against Ayyub, alleging that she illegally acquired funds from general public in the name of charity by launching fundraiser campaigns on an online crowdfunding platform Ketto.
The ED said it was alleged that Ayyub, a journalist by profession, had received foreign contributions without registration under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act.
On Thursday, Ayyub, in a statement on Twitter, called the ED move “another desperate attempt to target and intimidate me”.
“My pen can never be silenced. Ironic that I conducted a seminar yesterday, here in the US, on the attack on the free press in India. I will continue to raise my voice against the persecution of the marginalised in the country,” she said.
“The funds raised by me for Covid support were raised and used with the sole aim of helping people in dire need, and I am happy that many families ravaged by Covid received support,” she said.
Stating she was “confident that this abuse of the process by the ED will not withstand judicial scrutiny”, Ayyub called it “another example of the abuse of PMLA law and misuse of law enforcement agencies to silence me”.
The ED said its investigation “revealed that Rana Ayyub launched 3 fundraiser campaigns on Ketto platform starting from April 2020, and collected funds totalling Rs 2,69,44,680, namely: Help in raising funds for slum dwellers & farmers; Relief work for Assam, Bihar and Maharashtra; Help Rana Ayyub and her team to help those impacted by Covid-19 in India.”
“Investigation by ED revealed that the funds raised on the online platforms were received in the accounts of her father and sister and subsequently transferred to her personal accounts,” the probe agency said.
Ayyub, the ED statement said, utilised these funds to create a fixed deposit of Rs 50 lakh for herself and also transferred Rs 50 lakh in a new bank account.
The ED said only an approximate Rs 29 lakh was used for relief work. “In order to claim more expenses towards relief work, fake bills were submitted by Ms Rana Ayyub. Subsequently, bank balances in the accounts of Ms Rana Ayyub amounting to Rs 1,77,27,704 (including FD of Rs 50 lakh) were attached u/s 5 (1) of PMLA vide a Provisional Attachment Order dated 04.02.2022. Investigation by ED further revealed that Ms Rana Ayyub illegally raised Rs 2.69 crore by launching three online campaigns in the name of charity by cheating the general public donors,” it said.
“These funds were not used for the intended purpose, instead used for creation of assets for herself. Ms Rana Ayyub has tried to project these funds as untainted and thus has laundered the funds received from the general public. Ms Rana Ayyub also received these funds from foreign countries without any approval or registration from the government which is required under Foreign Contribution Regulation Act,” the ED said in its statement.