The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Thursday froze Rs 1.77 crore belonging to journalist Rana Ayyub in connection to a money laundering case.
Ayyub is an Indian journalist and a staunch critic of the BJP. She is known for authoring the investigative book titled Gujarat Files: Anatomy of a Cover up which is about the 2002 Gujarat riots.
ED’s action of locking up the assets was based on the FIR registered by the UP police against the journalist in September 2021. The complaint raised by one Vikas Sankrityayan alleged that Ayyub had diverted the funds collected a huge sum of money through Ketto, an online crowding platform, for relief work.
The police invoked sections of IPC, IT Act and also Section 4 of Black Money Act, alleging that she illegally acquired money from the public in the name of charity.
ED in a statement noted that the investigation makes it “clear that funds were raised in the name of charity in a pre-planned and systematic manner and the funds were not utilized completely” for the purpose with which they were raised.
The probe revealed that Ayyub allegedly transferred some funds to a newly opened current account in the bank. They also said that she deposited Rs 74.50 lakh in PM Cares fund and CM Relief Fund. “Ms. Rana Ayyub also created a Fixed Deposit of Rs 50 lakh from funds raised on Ketto and subsequently did not utilize these for relief works,” the statement read.
The alleged illegal money attached by ED is in the form of bank deposits in three different accounts. The attachment of properties means that it cannot be transferred or converted.
The report noted that Ayyub had started three campaigns — for slum dwellers and farmers; relief work for Assam, Bihar and Maharashtra; and help to those impacted by Covid-19.
Ketto in a mail to donors in August 2021, had said that law enforcement agencies informed them that the funds raised in the three campaigns by Ayyub were not utilized for the purpose and are still in the respective accounts.
ED also mentioned that of the total fund Rs 2.69 crores raised by Ayyub and portions were withdrawn in her father and sister’s account following which these were transferred to her account.
Ayyub submitted statements and documents of the expenses of Rs 31.16 lakh. However, the ED said, “After verification of the claimed expenses, it surfaced that the actual expenses were to the tune of Rs 17,66,970. Fake bills were found to have been prepared by Ms. Rana 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.”
Update: On Friday, responding to the ED’s action, Ayyub put out a detailed statement mentioning how she began the relief campaign, temporary halts in the operation due to various reasons, responses to the Income Tax department and ED. She also explained the financial details of the campaign and noted that “no part of the relief campaign fund remains unaccounted for and there is absolutely no scope for any remote allegation of misuse of the funds for personal expenses.”
Speaking against the allegations, she added, “The smear campaign against me will not deter me from my professional commitment to continue to do my work as a journalist. I am confident that the allegations levelled against me will not withstand any fair and honest scrutiny.”