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PFI funded CAA, NRC protests; also paid senior lawyers: ED

The ED has also alleged that Congress leader Kapil Sibal, senior lawyers Indira Jaising and Dushyant Dave, among others, received payments from the organisation. The report makes no mention of these payments being in relation to protests against CAA.

PFI funded CAA, NRC protests; also paid senior lawyers: ED At the sit-in against CAA, NRC at Shaheen Bagh on Monday. (PTI)

A report sent by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has alleged that Kerala-based organisation Popular Front of India (PFI) has funded protests against Citizenship (Amendment) Act and National Register of Citizens (NRC) across the country.

The ED has also alleged that Congress leader Kapil Sibal, senior lawyers Indira Jaising and Dushyant Dave, among others, received payments from the organisation. The report makes no mention of these payments being in relation to protests against CAA.

Sibal did not deny receiving funds from PFI but said it was for professional purposes. Jaising denied the allegations. Despite multiple calls, Dave did not respond.

Explained: Who are the PFI, the organisation that UP wants banned?

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“The scrutiny of deposits and withdrawals from bank accounts of PFI and its related entities has revealed there is a direct correlation between dates of deposit/withdrawal of money from the bank accounts and dates of demonstration/gherao against CAA in different parts of the country,” a part of the report, titled ‘Summary of evidences proving that PFI has mobilised cash for organising demonstration against CAA’, says.

Read | ‘Totally baseless’: PFI rejects charges of funding anti-CAA protests in Uttar Pradesh

In another part of the report titled ‘Analysis of Bank Accounts of PFI’, it is alleged that the organisation received Rs 120.5 crore, which were withdrawn either the same day or within two or three days. This part of the report, which does not mention the time period in which this money was received, alleges that scrutiny of a PFI account with Syndicate Bank’s branch on Moovar Road in Kozhikode, Kerala, revealed that payments of Rs 3.77 crore were made to various individuals and persons. This, ED states, includes paments to Sibal (Rs 77 lakh), Jaising (Rs 4 lakh), Dave (Rs 11 lakh), PFI Kashmir (Rs 1.65 crore), New Jyothi Group (1.17 crore), and one Abdul Samad (Rs 3.10 lakh), an accused chargesheeted by NIA.

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Sibal told The Indian Express: “I have received funds for professional services rendered in the Hadia case in 2017-18…. I appeared (in the case) on seven occasions. I sent my bill to the advocate on record, and that was paid. What has that got to do with any protests or anything?”

He also gave details of each cheque received from PFI, dated between July 2017 and March 2018, to drive home the point that the payments were made much before the citizenship Bill (CAB) was even brought in Parliament.

Jaising said in a written statement: “I completely and vehemently deny having received any money from PFI at any point of time, or receiving any money from any person of organisation in relation to anti-CAA protests. The note showing details of transaction from the PFI account alleged to be made to me does not contain any signature or date nor does it contain the name of the agency from where it has originated, and therefore is wholly unreliable.”

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In a statement, PFI general secretary Mohammed Ali Jinnah denied any financial link between the organisation and CAA protests. It also said payments shown against the name of Sibal, Dave and Jaising were made in connection with the Hadia case, and were publicly declared.

The ED document, confirmed by sources in the agency to be genuine, claims that within a month of CAB being introduced in Parliament on December 4, 2019, ten bank accounts of PFI and five accounts of Rehab India Foundation, which ED has called a “related entity” of PFI, received Rs 1.04 crore. These deposits, ED claims, ranged from Rs 5,000 to Rs 49,000 and were made either in cash or through IMPS transfers.

“The amount of deposits was kept below Rs 50,000 to avoid disclosing identity of the depositor,” the report says.

From these accounts, ED says, Rs 1.34 crore was withdrawn between December 4, 2019 and January 6, 2020 through cash, NEFT and IMPS. These withdrawals were made in amounts ranging from Rs 2,000 to Rs 5,000. On certain days (December 12 and December 21, 2019), the report says, there were 80-90 withdrawals.

The PFI stated that the organisation “fully complies with the law of the land, and allegation of Rs 120 crore transferred from (its) accounts just before CAA protest is totally baseless…. Popular Front of India does not have any wing or branch in Jammu and Kashmir.”

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Asserting that none of these allegations would ever be proven, just as UP and Assam could not do so after arresting two of its leaders for CAA protests, the PFI statement said, “Popular Front will not be bowed down by such cheap campaign by the forces backed by the fascists who want to stop us. We will continue our struggle against the fascist forces who try to suppress the voices of dissent.”

The PFI report has also given a graph which draws a correlation between the dates of withdrawal from PFI accounts and CAA protest dates. “The money was withdrawn immediately before the date of demonstration or during the day of the demonstrations,” the report states.

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It has concluded that the “money trail has proved beyond doubt that PFI has mobilised money to finance the cost of demonstrations against CAA”.

It has alleged that the PFI received payments from a Dubai company but the nature of transaction is still not known.

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Notably, the ED has been probing PFI since 2018 with regard to a case of money laundering. Recently, after receiving a report on PFI’s alleged involvement in CAA protests by the UP Police, MHA had asked ED probe its finances.

With inputs from Manoj C G and Kaunain Sheriff M

First published on: 28-01-2020 at 02:23:14 am
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