New Delhi: The Enforcement Directorate (ED) Thursday attached journalist Rana Ayyub’s funds in connection with a money laundering probe linked to alleged diversion of funds collected “in the name of charity” for “personal use”, sources in the agency said.
According to ED sources, investigation revealed that instead of utilising the funds worth Rs 1.77 crore for the relief work, Ayyub parked “some of the funds by opening a separate current bank account”. She also transferred the amount collected from relief work to accounts of her sister and father, and showed “fake bills” for the money spent for relief work.
Moreover, the journalist also created a “fixed deposit of Rs 50 lakh from the funds raised on Ketto and subsequently did not utilise these for relief works”, said a source. Ketto is an online platform for raising funds.
“Accordingly, at the stage of investigation, the proceeds of crime are quantified as Rs 1,77,27,704 and the interest generated upon the said FD of Rs 50 lakh,” the source said.
Ayyub has called the allegations “baseless, malafide and fanciful”. In a statement issued Friday, she said she was confident that the allegations “will not withstand any fair and honest scrutiny”, adding that her bank statements had been “deliberately misread”.
“The smear campaign against me will not deter me from my professional commitment to continue to do my work as a journalist, and especially to raise critical issues and ask inconvenient questions, as is my duty as a journalist in a constitutional democracy,” the statement further said.
— Rana Ayyub (@RanaAyyub) February 11, 2022
On 7 September, the Ghaziabad Police registered a case against Ayyub, based on a complaint by Vikas Sankrityayan, the co-founder of an organisation that calls itself the ‘Hindu IT Cell’, who accused her of illegally acquiring public money through campaigns on Ketto in the name of charity.
The FIR was registered under Indian Penal Code (IPC) sections 403 (misappropriation of property), 406 (criminal breach of trust), 418 (cheating), 420 (cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property), section 66D (cheating by personation by using computer resource) of the IT Act, and section 4 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002.
Based on this FIR, a copy of which is with ThePrint, the investigation agency took up the money laundering probe.
The FIR states that the money had been raised under three campaigns — “funds for slum dwellers and farmers”, “relief work for Assam, Bihar and Maharashtra”, and “help for Covid-19 impacted people in India” between April and May 2020, June and September 2020, and May and June 2021, respectively — without any kind of “approval certificate, registration from the government which is required as per Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA)”.
Ayyub raised funds totalling to Rs 2,69,44,680 on Ketto and the funds were then withdrawn in bank accounts of her sister and father, alleged the agency.
“Out of the Rs 2,69,44,680 raised, Rs 72,01,786 was withdrawn in her own bank account, Rs 37,15,072 was withdrawn in her sister Iffat Shaikh’s account and Rs 1,60,27,822 was withdrawn in her father Mohammad Ayyub Waquif’s bank account,” the source said, adding that these funds from her sister’s and father’s accounts were subsequently transferred in the journalist’s own account.
ED also alleged that out of the money raised, over Rs 80 lakh was also received in foreign currency. However, it was returned as the Income Tax department initiated an investigation over alleged violation of the FCRA norms.
According to the agency, Ayyub submitted information and documents of expense to the tune of only Rs 31.16 lakh and after verification of the claimed expenses, it was found that “the actual expenses were only Rs 17,66,970”.
“Fake bills were found to have been prepared by 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,” the source said, adding that funds raised in the name of charity “were not utilised completely for the purpose”.
Funds attached include a fixed deposit of Rs 50 lakh from a Navi Mumbai savings account, available balance of Rs 57.19 lakh in an HDFC current account, and another Rs 70.08 lakh of the same HDFC savings account, in which the FD was made, sources in the agency said.
In her statement, Ayyub said that according to the procedure set by Ketto, all contributors to her campaign made donations to the platform’s bank account.
“As per Ketto’s procedure, all donors to my campaigns made donations to Ketto’s bank account, which after deducting processing charges, would forward the same for the relief campaign to the designated 2 bank accounts, who in turn would then transfer the entire amount received from Ketto to my bank account,” it said.
Ayyub mentioned that she started fundraisers on the Ketto platform in April 2020, June 2002, and then in May 2021, to “aid in providing respite to the most vulnerable and affected people with food grains, rations, and medical assistance”.
Keto then asked her to furnish details of two bank accounts for donations to be transferred, she added.
“I then explored whether it was possible for Ketto to directly transfer the funds to the grain vendors who were going to provide the supplies for the relief work. However, as the vendors were all required to submit various documents to Ketto, the process could not take off,” her statement said.
The journalist said that her personal bank account could not be used at that time, as Ketto required a physical copy of her PAN card to be furnished immediately, “which at that time was unavailable”.
“In these circumstances, as I thought that aid to Covid-19 ravaged families should not be delayed, I gave Ketto the details and documents relating to my father and sister’s bank accounts,” her statement read.
Ayyub went on to say that she was also aware “that a part of the money was donated to the relief campaign by Muslims in India in the month of Ramadan, presumably as Zakaat”.
“As a practicing Muslim, I understand the sanctity of Zakaat and its intended use for those in need,” she added.
The journalist also mentioned that since June 2021, she had received several notices from the Income Tax department, to which she “responded with detailed answers supported by documents, bills, invoices, and bank records”.
Ayyub said she raised a total of 2.69 crore from three fundraising campaigns, of which she utilised “1 crore 14 lakh and 50 thousand for relief work, out of which Rs 74.50 lakh was donated to the PM Cares fund and the CM Cares fund of Maharashtra”, and “Rs 1.05 crore was paid as tax to the income tax department”.
The remaining amount, she said, has been turned into a fixed deposit of Rs 50 lakh for a field hospital, adding that her bank statements have been “deliberately misread”.