Journalist Rana Ayyub on Tuesday said that she was stopped at Mumbai airport from boarding a flight to London. She was stopped from travelling abroad because the Enforcement Directorate has issued a lookout notice for her, The Hindu reported.
Ayyub told Scroll.in that she had an event on April 1 with some of the top jurors, editors and diplomats in London. On the same day, she was to speak at The Guardian’s office at the invitation of the newspaper’s editor Katharine Viner. Then on April 6 and 7, she was to be in Italy to attend an event called the International Journalism Festival.
“I had tweeted about all the events three weeks in advance,” Ayyub said. “My flight was at 3 pm today [Tuesday]. The immigration people were confused. An hour after back and forth, the ED told the immigration to tell me that they are sending me a summons to appear on April 1. The summons was received by me today on mail around 2 pm, exactly an hour before departure.”
Ayyub said that she had already submitted all relevant documents to the Enforcement Directorate. She said that had been issued a showcause notice for which she had been given a month to reply.
“Not a single summons from the ED, the last being the 1st week of Jan was received by me till an hour before my flight today,” Ayyub said. “And each summons was honoured and documents submitted.”
In February, media reports had said that the Enforcement Directorate has attached over Rs 1.77-crore worth of Ayyub’s bank deposits in connection with a “money-laundering investigation” after the journalist started fund-raising campaign to provide food and other relief to people struggling because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The agency’s case is based on a first information report filed by the Uttar Pradesh Police in September 2021.
In September, a Hindutva group called the Hindu IT Cell had filed a complaint against Ayyub alleging that she had illegally collected money through the online fundraising platform Ketto “in the name of charity”. The complaint alleged that the journalist had received foreign funds without government approval.
Agency officials had told PTI that Ayyub raised Rs 2,69,44,680 on Ketto. The Enforcement Directorate had also claimed that Ayyub created a fixed deposit of Rs 50 lakh from the funds she had raised but did not use this for relief work.
According to a report published by PTI, the Enforcement Directorate had issued a provisional order “to attach a Rs 50-lakh worth fixed deposit and the rest amount kept as bank deposits and held in two accounts of a private bank in Navi Mumbai”.
Ayyub had described the allegations as “preposterous, wholly mala fide and belied by record”. They are based on “an intentional misreading of her bank statements”, the journalist said.
She said her personal bank account could not be used as Ketto required a physical copy of her permanent account number, or PAN, card to be furnished immediately. The document was unavailable at the time, Ayyub said.
“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,” the statement said.
The journalist added that she had received no foreign contributions as defined under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act.
On Tuesday, several journalists criticised the immigration department’s actions.