Rs 1.77 crore belonging to journalist Rana Ayyub, a vocal critic of the ruling BJP, have been locked up by the Enforcement Directorate or ED, which has accused her of money laundering and swindling funds collected for philanthropic use.
Sources in the agency said it had issued a provisional order under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) to attach a fixed deposit and bank accounts in her and her family’s name. Attaching a property means it cannot be transferred, converted or moved.
Ms Ayyub is yet to comment on these allegations.
The money laundering case against Ms Ayyub is based on a First Information Report or FIR filed by Uttar Pradesh’s Ghaziabad Police in September, by a Vikas Sankrityayan – the founder of an NGO called “Hindu IT Cell” and a resident of Indirapuram in Ghaziabad.
According to a document attributed to “ED sources”, the agency which investigates financial crimes found that the journalist had raised over Rs 2.69 crore through an online crowdfunding platform called Ketto for charitable purposes between 2020 and 2021.
Ms Ayyub had then stated that the “entire donation received through Ketto is accounted for and not a single paisa has been misused”.
“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 These funds were withdrawn in the bank accounts of her sister and father,” the Enforcement Directorate’s note said, adding that the entire amount was subsequently “transferred” in Ms Ayyub’s own account.
Ms Ayyub submitted documents of expense for about Rs 31 lakh to the ED, however, after verification of the claimed expenses, the agency said it had found that the actual expenses to be Rs 17.66 lakh only.
“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 expense for relief work,” it alleged.
The agency 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”.
Ms Ayyub, it added, created a 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 also found Ms Ayyub “deposited a total of Rs 74.50 lakh in PM CARES fund and CM Relief Fund.”