Mumbai/New Delhi: Mumbai-based journalist Rana Ayyub was stopped Tuesday at the Mumbai International Airport from flying to London as she is an accused in an alleged money laundering case, which is being investigated by the Enforcement Directorate (ED).
According to Ayyub, she received the ED summons “very curiously” only after she was stopped at Mumbai airport. She was allegedly stopped just before she could board the flight to London, where she was scheduled to deliver a keynote speech on Indian democracy at a journalism festival.
The ED is investigating alleged violation of foreign funding rules by Ayyub while collecting donations for Covid-19 relief.
“I was stopped today at Mumbai immigration from travelling to deliver this address and onwards to International Journalism Festival to deliver the keynote speech on Indian democracy. I had made this announcement public over weeks, yet the ED (Enforcement Directorate) summon very curiously arrived in my inbox after I was stopped,” Ayyub said on microblogging site Twitter.
ThePrint reached Ayyub for a comment but she declined to speak.
According to sources in the agency, a look-out circular was issued against Ayyub because of “non-compliance” of summons that were issued against her earlier.
“She was stopped from boarding a flight to London. She was told about the pending investigation and non-compliance of earlier summons which were issued about a week ago. She had ignored earlier summons,” a source said. “New summons have been issued to her for 1 April.”
Washington-based non-profit, International Centre for Journalists, had invited Ayyub to the UK for a discussion on online violence against women journalists. Ayyub has often tweeted how she has faced online harassment and death threats from trolls. She has even lodged official complaints in some cases.
The money laundering case against Ayyub is based on a FIR filed by Uttar Pradesh’s Ghaziabad Police in September, by Vikas Sankrityayan, who is the founder of an NGO called ‘Hindu IT Cell’ and a resident of Indirapuram in Ghaziabad.
It was alleged in the FIR that she illegally acquired over Rs 2.69 crore from the public through an online crowdfunding platform called ‘Ketto’ for Covid 19 relief work in 2020-21 — a charge she has already refuted.
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.
The ED attached her bank deposits last month to the tune of Rs 1.77 crore in connection with the case.
According to ED sources, the journalist created a fixed deposit of Rs 50 lakh from funds raised on Ketto and didn’t use it for relief works.
Ayyub had earlier issued a statement saying 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.